What Is a Real Breakfast? German Court Rules Bread Isn't Enough

Fresh bread rolls. A German court has ruled the food does not constitute breakfast by itself. Public Domain

Germany is often subject to stereotyping over its love of rules—and perhaps not unfairly, given its regulations insisting you keep quiet on a Sunday and the law requiring you to have a chimney sweep check your fireplace at regular intervals.

So maybe it's no big surprise that a German court has now issued a definitive ruling on what does and doesn't constitute a real breakfast.

A software company with 80 employees had been serving free bread rolls and coffee in its canteen to staff in the morning. Tax authorities ruled that this was "free provision of a meal to the employee in the form of a breakfast," and demanded extra payments of 1.50 to 1.57 euros (around $1.80) per employee per day as a result, The Local reported.

The extra taxes would have landed the company with a hefty bill spanning from December 2008 to December 2011.

But a tax court in the city of Münster ruled against the tax office. It was possible, the court ruled, to have an exemption for food that did not constitute a full breakfast and therefore did not have to be taxed in this way.

It said a complete breakfast included additional food, such as meats or cheese, so the company was not providing a full meal and did not have to pay the tax.

The case recalls a classic food regulation dispute in the United Kingdom. Tax authorities challenged McVities, the manufacturer of Jaffa Cakes—a chocolate and orange sweet snack—to prove that the products were biscuits rather than cakes. Biscuits were subject to no VAT (similar to sales tax), unlike cakes, which were charged at a rate of 17.5 percent.

In the end, McVities won its case, an argument helped in part by baking a 12-inch Jaffa Cakes sample and having the authorities decide for themselves whether they'd call it a cake or a biscuit.