Coffee and bread is not breakfast, German court rules

Coffee and a bread roll is a common morning meal in Germany, but a tax court just officially ruled that it does not actually count as breakfast unless the bread has cold cuts, cheese, or at least butter on it.

According to The Local, the definition of “breakfast” came before a tax court in Muenster recently because a local tech company had been offering free coffee and putting free rolls out in the company canteen every morning. The rolls and drinks were available to customers, guests, and the company’s employees.

The tax office, however, declared that the basket of rolls and coffee was a lot more than a nice morning perk. They said the company was providing free breakfast to its employees, which would count as a "free provision of a meal to the employee in the form of a breakfast."

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In other words, the tax office said the free meal was a form of compensation, and the employer must pay tax on it accordingly.

The company employs approximately 80 people, and the tax office told the company it would have to pay between €1.50 to €1.57 per employee per day, and the tax would be backdated to the period from December 2008 to December 2011.

The company went to court over the decision, and this week the local tax court ruled in their favor, partly on the grounds that the “breakfast” being offered would be a pretty crummy breakfast. The coffee came from the office vending machine, and the rolls were served without toppings. There wasn’t even butter.

The local tax court ruled that vending machine coffee and dry rolls was not worthy of the word “breakfast.” A dry roll and coffee is not exactly one of the best brunches of 2017. It doesn’t even count as a good fast-food breakfast.

A real breakfast would have to include bread with cold cuts, cheese, or spreads, the court said. Therefore the rolls and coffee did not count as a free, company-provided meal for employee compensation purposes. The monetary value of the food and drinks could have been taxed, but it was beneath an exemption limit, so the company did not have to pay extra tax for providing them.

The tax office can still appeal the ruling to a higher court if it chooses to, but its chances of finding a judge willing to call an unbuttered roll breakfast seem slim.