A German company avoided paying back taxes after judges ruled that the food it was serving wasn't substantial enough to be considered a free breakfast.

Mike Pomranz
October 03, 2017

What is breakfast… technically speaking? Is it dependent on time of day? If so, then what about "breakfast for dinner"? Is it only certain foods or is a steak at 9am still "breakfast"? Can you have just a coffee for "breakfast"? What about size? Does breakfast have to be more petite than your dejeuner? Though these questions may seem like a philosophical exercise, a German court was recently tasked with actually determining an answer to what defines a "breakfast." Their answer: Certainly more than just bread rolls and coffee!

The reason for the ruling, as should probably be anticipated, was for tax purposes. According to Germany's The Local, a software company had been providing plain bread rolls and hot drinks such as coffee to its approximately 80 employees, as well as customers and guests, every morning. The tax office classified this as an undisclosed "free provision of a meal to the employee in the form of a breakfast" and demanded the business pay three years of back taxes at a rate of €1.50 to €1.57 per employee per day. Some quick math reveals that the total tax bill could easily have exceeded €100,000.

However, luckily for the company in question, judges in Munster apparently decided that bread rolls and hot drinks are only part of a complete breakfast. The court ruled that since the rolls didn't come with any sort of additional toppings like cold cuts, cheese or spreads, they were not in fact a "breakfast" and instead just sad morning bread rolls (which, for the record, is not a technical German legal term).

Though the decision is certainly a beneficial ruling for the software company, it's also a small victory for those trying to define breakfast everywhere. Next time someone serves you plain toast and tea for "breakfast," simply send it back and say, "This wouldn't legally pass for a breakfast in Germany!"

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