Individual Employee Purchases at Company Cafeteria Are Taxable

Feb 1st, 2019

The Missouri Supreme Court recently ruled on the taxability of sales by a third-party operator of a cafeteria. The third-party operated an on-site cafeteria inside a federal reserve bank, an exempt entity in Missouri. The bank influenced pricing, set cafeteria hours, and subsidized the cost of food served at the cafeteria. Bank employees paid for food either by cash or through payroll deduction.

Missouri requires the collection of tax by sellers that regularly serve meals or drinks to the public. The court found that despite the bank's highly secured nature and limited access, the bank cafeteria regularly served meals and drinks to the public. Once inside the bank, anyone could buy food from and eat in the cafeteria. Sales were not limited to bank employees, or even to building employees.

Additionally, the court determined that the bank's sales tax exemption did not extend to individual employees as purchasers. A purchaser of goods is the one who exercises control over the thing purchased. The bank had little influence over the "how, where, and when" the purchased food was used. The court found that cafeteria customers decided which food products to purchase and when and where to consume them.