Meals on airplanes don’t have the best reputation, but according to a decision handed down recently by the Missouri Supreme Court, they can’t be compared with the TV dinners you might have in your freezer.

Gate Gourmet, a company based in St. Louis County that makes frozen meals served to airline passengers, argued their meals were substantially the same as TV dinners bought at the grocery store. If the court had ruled in their favor, their meals could have been taxed at a lower rate.

The state imposes a 4 percent sales tax on the sale of “tangible personal property,” including certain food, according to court documents. The tax on foods for home consumption, or any type of food that can be bought with food stamps, is at a lower rate of 1 percent.

As previously reported, Gate Gourmet filed sales tax returns with the state from 2008 through 2010, reporting sales at the 1 percent rate.

In an audit, the Missouri Department of Revenue found the company should have been paying at the 4 percent rate. After the court’s ruling, Gate Gourmet is on the hook for nearly $300,000.

Gate Gourmet argued to the Missouri Supreme Court that because the meals they sell to airlines are frozen and reheated on the aircraft, they satisfy the definition of “food” laid out for the lower tax rate.

The court disagreed, comparing the airplane meals to the type of food sold at the concession stands in movie theaters. While the food served both on planes and in theaters is “capable of being eaten anywhere, including the customer’s home),” that’s not the intention, according to the court’s ruling.

The frozen meals Gate Gourmet sold to its customers “were intended to be eaten by the airlines’ passengers, pilots and crew while on board the customers’ aircraft,” the court found.

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