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What do workers want? At some offices, it's tax-free lunches

I remember working in an office. There were the totally open ones, where nothing separated the desks. Then came the cube farms. At a couple of places, I even had my own separate office.

Is a private office one of the perks that makes going into work worthwhile for you? Or do you want something else from your employer?

My motto generally is "say it with cash."

However, a recent survey by BlessingWhite and reported by found there are some common non-monetary ways to motivate employees.

I say, "convince me."

Keeping employees happy: There are four things, according to the survey, that the most-satisfied employees typically demand.

1. Doing what they do well.
They like employers who appreciate their strengths and help them hone those skills. So let your workers do -- and improve upon via continuing education -- what they do best.

2. Being on the same page.
Align employee work and personal goals and preferences with those of their co-workers for a clearer vision.

3. Not forcing things.
Good and satisfied workers appreciate it when workplace learning happens more organically. Schedule flexibility helps here.

4. Encouraging interaction.
Career growth and professional interoffice relationships also are big employee satisfaction and engagement points.

It's also important, says BlessingWhite/Ragan, for employers to get to know their teams on a personal level. HR experts suggest companies make an effort to have fun with their workers and initiate conversations about things other than the job.

IRS eyeing taxes on office lunches: That's what many Silicon Valley employers say they are doing by providing their staff with free lunches from gourmet cafeterias.

Lunch in 1941 at the John Inglis Co. Bren gun plant_National Film Board of Canada via Flickr
Back in 1941, at-work dining was different. Workers 73 years ago at the John Inglis Co. Bren gun plant lined up to be served by company cafeteria employees. Photo courtesy National Film Board of Canada/Library and Archives Canada via Flickr.

The Internal Revenue Service, however, might soon be putting an end to that convivial workplace experience. One of the items in the IRS/U.S. Treasury 2014-2015 Priority Guidance Plan is a re-evaluation of tax rules regarding employer-provided meals.

Bankrate Taxes Blog iconAs I noted in a post last week at my other tax blog, the possible end of free workplace lunches won't be a problem for most companies and their staff.

Employer-provided food at most jobs is a rare event, showing up when a special project requires longer hours or at holiday celebrations. These occasional and relatively inexpensive eats are considered de minimis benefits, meaning it's not worth the trouble for the tax man to track them.

High-tech companies, however, have used meals and other atypical perks as a way to develop a particular workplace culture and compete for skilled employees. You can bet they'll fight to keep the food as a tax-free employee benefit.

The Wall Street Journal figured that at a fair-market value of between $8 and $10 per meal, a Google staffer who eats two company-provided meals a day could get end up facing an extra $4,000 to $5,000 a year in taxable compensation.

That could mean almost $2,000 more a year in taxes for some workers.

At that amount, you can also bet well-fed workers at Google, Facebook and other similar companies will join their bosses in lobbying for the office meals to remain a tax-free benefit.

New way to e-pay: Also over at Bankrate Taxes Blog last week, I looked at the IRS' Direct Pay option. This is another tax e-payment option introduced this year and which is enjoying pretty good acceptance.

So far, says the IRS, more than one million taxpayers have remitted more than $1.7 billion in taxes via Direct Pay transactions.

I usually post my additional tax blog thoughts at Bankrate every Tuesday and Thursday. If you don't get a chance to check them out there, you'll usually find highlights and links here at the ol' blog the following weekend.

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