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משום דרכי שלום, tzedakah can be given to all people. Welfare and food stamps should be then defined as tzedakah as it's given to all people under the poverty line, Jewish or not. Medicaid should generally be considered tzedakah too (although I'm not sure about the LTC part). If it's tzedakah, is it considered maaser?

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Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l in Igros Moshe (cheilek 2 - first volume on Yoreh Deah), Siman 143 says that tax that goes to a government is not considered to be part of one's personal funds as they are owed outright to the government. So with this in mind, one could say that even if the tax goes towards a modern welfare system, since it is not deemed to be part of your personal income you wouldn't be fulfilling your obligation of maaser.

He writes clearly:

המסים של האינקאם טעקס שזה הוא מס מהרויח אין צריך לעשר עליהם משום דנחשב כלא הרויח זה כלל

"The tax of income tax which is a tax on one's profit, should not be tithed on them because it is considered as non-profit - this is the rule."

However, Rav Yitzchak Weiss in Minchas Yitzchak (cheilek 5) 34:9 who mentions the above ruling of Rav Moshe disagrees and says that this is a stringent approach and if a person receives a minimal / low income he can consider the tax payment as part of his maaser obligation.

He writes:

אבל למי שאין פרנסתו ברחבה כ"כ יוכל לנהוג כן בכל מסים שלא לעשר מהם ויתנה כן מתחלה מ"מ אם העשתא דחיקא לי' יכול לנהוג כן בהמעשר שעדיין לא הפריש

"But someone who doesn't have such a big livelihood / income, he is able to treat it like all taxes that he doesn't tithe them, and he can stipulate so at the beginning. Nevertheless if it is pressing for him, he is able to treat it as maaser since it still has not been designated."

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  • Dov, why would there be such wildly divergent opinions in regard to this “obligation”? Sep 9 '20 at 13:10
  • Why do you assume you its 'wildly divergent'?
    – Dov
    Sep 9 '20 at 13:19
  • I don't see these sources discussing giving taxes as counting towards maaser you already owe. They're discussing if your income which is used to calculate maaser includes money you have to give the government, or if it's not your money so you don't need to
    – robev
    Sep 9 '20 at 13:21
  • @Robev is the OP not asking if their outgoing tax-bound income counts towards their maaser payments as they are supporting welfare and the like?
    – Dov
    Sep 9 '20 at 13:26
  • @Dov, it isn't even clearly an obligation. Maaser Kesafim is a weird thing that has supporters who claim it's deOraisa, deRabbanan, minhag, or even hanhagah tovah. I think because the autonomous Jewish community was taxing 10% to support the communal charity funds (qupah and tamchui). So pesaqim were never offered on this topic between the days of the gemara and the Enlightment's end to living in autonomous communities. All the discussions were theoretical, and disputes never got closed. Sep 9 '20 at 13:45

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