Are there any expenses that one is allowed to "deduct" from his income before calculating the amount of Maaser one must give?

For example, if one makes a hundred thousand dollars a year, but his living expenses, food, taxes and school tuition take up ninety percent of his income, must he pay ten thousand dollars for Maaser or one thousand?

  • The AOJS has a book on maasar k'safim (with the title Maaser Kesafim) with an entire chapter devoted to this question. I'd tell you what the upshot was, but don't have the book (and can't see that part of it on Google Books). – msh210 Jan 2 '12 at 0:15

Dayan Raskin says that the following are deductibles:

  1. Any overheads that one must pay to earn one's money. For example, if one earned $100,000 but must pay rent, workers, wholesaler, insurance, etc., he doesn't really earn the full $100,000. Therefore, he can pay less Maaser.
  2. Taxes. If one earned $100,000 dollars, but pays $10,000 in taxes, he doesn't really earn $100,000 but $90,000.
  3. Transportation costs. If it takes $5,000 dollars to get to work, he doesn't really earn $100,000 but $95,000.
  4. Cost of childcare to supervise children during working hours. If it costs $5,000 for a babysitter, he doesn't really earn $100,000 but $95,000.

Mortgage is not deductible.

Though if one can't afford to give Tzedaka (meaning, if he was to give Tzedaka he would so poor he would be elegible for Tzedaka himself), he can make a "buddy system" with another such individual with which they can exchange Maaser.

  • Why is rent deductible but not mortgage payments? – Double AA Mar 23 '14 at 17:18
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    @DoubleAA He meant rent for the office. He needs that to make the money, so he can deduct it. – Ish Ploni ViKohen Mar 23 '14 at 18:19
  • @IshPloniViKohen, but is he distinguishing the principle payment on the mortgage? – Yishai Mar 24 '14 at 19:49

Although not commonly practiced (that I know of), it is worthwhile to mention the approach of the Chofetz Chaim in Ahavas Chesed (2:18:3) is to deduct all non-discretionary household expenses and to give maaser on the net income.

I don't know if non-discretionary expenses only includes basic necessities, or would also include expenses which are culturally accepted (telephone, insurance, etc.)


School tuition may even count towards one's maaser if necessary! See: http://doseofhalacha.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/maaser-for-tuition.html

The Shulchan Aruch (YD 245:4) writes that parents have an obligation to teach their sons Torah or hire another to teach on their behalf. Many Poskim (Aruch Hashulchan YD 249:10; Chofetz Chaim, Ahavas Chesed 2:19:2) therefore write that as this is an obligatory Mitzva one should not use one’s maaser to pay for it.

The Shevet Halevi (5:133:2) points out that the primary obligation is to teach Torah Shebichsav. As schools today teach Torah Shebaal Peh, one may use one’s maaser if absolutely necessary. R’ Yitzchak Blazer (Shut Pri Yitzchak 2:27) writes that one may use one’s maaser for one’s older children in Yeshiva or Seminary (or even above the age of six).

Some Poskim differentiate between boys and girls tuition. Dayan Weiss (Minchas Yitzchok 10:85) allows one to use one’s maaser to pay for their daughter’s tuition if necessary as one is not obligated to teach them Torah in the same way.

R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe YD 2:113) writes that nowadays there is no difference between boys and girls as parents are legally required to send them both to school. While he maintains that one should not use maaser money to pay for one’s child’s education, if one is eligible for a reduction, they should rather pay the full amount, making up the balance out of their maaser.

One who can afford to pay without using one’s maaser should do so. Where school fees are voluntary and pay to subsidize other students too, one may use some of one’s maaser towards the tuition, providing the funds are used for Mitzva related expenses. Either way, one must pay off any school fees before donating money to other charities.

  • I don't see that this answers the question, unless you posit that if something can be paid out of maaser funds then it can also be deducted from income before calculating the maaser amount (which doesn't seem reasonable to me, as that'd be paying maaser from monies not obligated in maaser, and IINM the analogue for maaser on produce doesn't work; and which, in any event, you haven't posited in your answer). – msh210 Mar 23 '14 at 20:43
  • My point - not only is tuition exempt from maaser, though it counts towards maaser if necessary. – Zvi Mar 23 '14 at 21:35
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    Again, I'd think "exempt from maaser" and "counts towards maaser" would be mutually exclusive -- but editing your position to the contrary in to your answer would make it address the question asked. (Sourcing it would be even better.) – msh210 Mar 23 '14 at 21:48
  • @msh210, maybe it's time for my mid-morning coffee, but if you've paid your tuition, which counts for your Ma'aser, wouldn't you be exempting that from calculating the Ma'aser on the remainder of your income? Although I agree with your original point that Zvi should make his argument clear in his answer. Also, Zvi, "not only..." usually needs to be followed up with a "but (also)..." I'm not sure what your point in your comment is. – Seth J Mar 24 '14 at 16:17
  • I disagree with the 'delete' flags. "This was posted as an answer, but it does not attempt to answer the question. It should possibly be an edit, a comment, another question, or deleted altogether." These criteria do not seem to apply, IMHO. It is not a strong answer, and it could use revision, but it is not a comment or edit to either the question or another answer. – Seth J Mar 24 '14 at 16:35

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