Beginning in 2010, the Panera Bread Foundation, a non-profit related to the popular restaurant chain, piloted a limited experiment in the “gift economy,” whereby customers could “pay it forward” or “pay-what-you-can” at select cafes. The experiment, unfortunately, failed due to lack of financial viability. In a double-hit, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) now claims the experimental cafes owe back taxes to 2012 on annual revenues exceeding $7.5 million.

Unfortunately, under IRS rules, it appears the Foundation’s main goal was to turn a profit, rather than a more charitable purpose, despite factors that seem to be the contrary.

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