The perks also get more creative. Parents on maternity or paternity leave can expense up to $500 for takeout meals during the first three months they are home with their new baby. The company matches contributions of up to $12,000 per year from employees to nonprofit organizations and will reimburse those trying to adopt a child up to $5,000 in expenses. Chefs provide meals in campus cafes, and in-between snacks are gratis.
There is also an on-site doctor, physical therapy and chiropractic services, financial education, oil change and car wash services, dry cleaning, massage, a gym/fitness center, hair stylists and bike repair.
Facebook is another company with a reputation for top-notch benefits, and it has adopted a strategy similar to Google's to help lure away talent.
The company pays 100% of employee benefit premiums for medical, dental, vision, life insurance and disability coverage. It too boasts of having a gourmet-worthy cafeteria (in fact, it hired away Google's one-time chef) and adds the Friday afternoon bonus of beer kegs and nachos. Facebook's new headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., also includes a movie theater, barbecue pit, on-site doctor's office and laundry service.
The actual cost of these offerings aren't typically detailed in public filings. It has been estimated, however, that Google spends at least an annual $2,000 per employee on food. To offer some perspective, in 2008 Cisco altered its policies on free food after determining it was spending $20 million a year on soda and bottled water alone. Google that same year revised its day care program after realizing it was subsidizing each child roughly $37,000 a year, nearly three times the average of similar companies.
Taxes are a concern for all involved, and companies often need to find ways to make the burden of extra compensation more palatable to either themselves or the beneficiaries.
In January, when all Google employees got holiday bonuses, they were structured in such a way that the company effectively paid the taxes. Increasing compensation to even out taxes was also done when Google announced recently that it would bridge a federal tax gap faced by same-sex couples, but not opposite-sex couples, on spousal health insurance benefits.
In many other situations, the companies themselves save on taxes by shifting payroll -- and the levies assessed on it -- to fringe benefits. The result can mean that employers actually get a deduction for "paying" more.
"As a general rule, fringe benefits are taxable to the employee and deductible by the employer," says Mark Luscombe, the principal federal tax analyst for CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business that provides tax, accounting and audit information, software and services. "However, there are broad categories of fringe benefits that are not taxable to the employee, even though they are still deductible by the employer."