You know how all the big tech companies employ their own executive chefs and provide lovely lunch and dinner options to their employees every day so no one ever has to leave the office? Well now the IRS is saying those meals are a taxable fringe benefit, and they should be part of the withholding in employees' checks. This battle should be amusing to watch as it unfolds.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, "the IRS and U.S. Treasury Department last week included taxation of 'employer-provided meals' in their annual list of top tax priorities," and tech companies especially — who appear to be the inspiration for this new prioritizing — are expected to lash back with their own army of tax lawyers.

Of course, for everyone who doesn't work for a company who provides lovely food all the time and who has to buy their own lunch every day, eating into their already inferior non-tech-related income, this seems only fair. But for everyone who works for one of these companies and may or may not even eat in the cafeteria every day, having a chunk taken from their paycheck is going to make them very sad/angry.

The Journal says that the IRS has already been going after employees who receive such lavish free food, seeking "back taxes that can amount to 30% of the meals' fair-market value." And it seems that this all may have been the Journal's fault, bringing up the issue of the free meals as a fringe benefit in an article last year, which allegedly got higher-ups at the IRS excited.

But it's not like employee cafeterias are a new thing! People have been getting free lunch from their employers for decades, depending on the employer. And there is an exception in tax law that allows for this so long as the company is either in a remote place or providing meals is more of a convenience to the employer.

Apparently, though, when the IRS has conducted audits around this, they're typically going after the deep pockets of the company, who will often settle and then include the benefit in an employee's withholding going forward. Also, typically, they'll just adjust salaries across the board to cover the benefit, so that employees' take-home wages aren't affected.

It's not like Google can't afford it.

[Business Insider]