QUESTION: We were at dinner with several friends recently. When the bill came, we had a huge discussion on tipping on the meal's tax. Should we only tip on the bill for the meal or for total bill of the meal plus tax. What do you think?
CALLIE'S ANSWER: This is a tricky topic. Some restaurants now suggest tipping after taxes because servers themselves tip out on the after-tax amount. I usually tip after taxes but to each his own. Do what you feel comfortable with.
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: This sounds like a spirit-of-the-law (intent) vs. letter-of-the-law (actual wording) kind of thing, and a discussion about tipping always comes with lots of opinions. From what I've heard, the actual unofficial “rule” is to tip according to the amount of the meal and not the tax. But this is subjective. It's my understanding that waiters get paid far less than minimum wage, with the expectation that tips are supposed to make up the rest of their salary.
I don't think there's much difference between the before-tax and after-tax amount, so if you can, find in the waiter's favor in this case and do your best to find another place to save money in your budget. I do understand the question, though; sometimes it's a stretch for me to eat out with my own family, and I forget about accounting for the tip until the very end. But I don't think pretax vs. post-tax tipping will make that much difference to you on a one-time basis, but it adds up over time for the waiter, who might need all the help he or she can get. Also, keep in mind that waiters are paying taxes on expected tips, based on the sales at the tables they served.