While Bell’s behavior might have brought her attention for all of the wrong reasons, her timing couldn’t have been better for the IRS. Revenue Ruling 2012-18, which was published on June 25, 2012, just went into effect on January 1, 2013. The ruling “provides guidance for employers and employees… regarding taxes imposed on tips…including information on the difference between tips and service charges.” In other words, the ruling is intend to address the fuzzy area of when a tip is really a tip. Tops on the list for confusion is the controversial autograt.
When I was waiting tables, I got paid $2.65 an hour from the restaurant. After tips though, I ended up making roughly $18 an hour. When I switched to bartending in the same place, it jumped to $28 an hour. I depended on tips for a living, but the restaurant I worked at was a special place. Most people went there for birthdays and graduations, they were prepared to spend money on the evening and expected above normal service. I had to wear a bow tie for crying out loud. But I never felt bad about expecting a good tip because, for that place, I always felt it was part of the whole package. Nevermind the fact that I was a fantastic server.
One thing people have to realize too, is that the industry feeds into itself a bit. Back then, after work, we would all go out to neighboring restaurants or pubs and party with other servers and tip insane amounts of money. Often 50%. I once tipped another bartender $30 on a $7 dollar tab. But, remember, when they came into my place, it would come back to me. It was like the nice game or something. I was in a scene though. We all wanted to spend our money like that.
As far as claiming tips. The way that it typically works is that when a server cashes out at the end of the evening, the computer will ask them how much to claim. I would usually do 10% of my sales, NOT my tips. But the decision was always up to me. When I got a check for my hours worked at the end of the week, the goal for me was to have the check be 1 cent. Because taxes would be taken out first, I knew that if my check was 1 cent then I was still paying everything required of me but not a penny more.
Back to tipping: Living in Canada now, I see a much different tipping culture. And I really like it. Tipping is more of a gesture of decency here than a method of support. If I told someone that I was going to tip over 20% they would just say 'why' and presume that it is completely unnecessary and, in fact, a waste of money. But it is true that the service is not even close to what it is in the states. I guess all around, expectations are less about that kind of thing, and I'm alright with that.
Going back home now, I have a much easier time being the less than great tipper. I usually will do 15 to 18%. But my checks are typically higher than average at restaurants too, because I like to have a decent night out. So in the end my 15% on an $80 dollar bill is better than someone's 25% on $40. Also, I do not have any problem with tipping very poorly if the situation warrants.