I have heard different opinions concerning whether taxes can be deducted before calculating maaser. It is logical to me that if you cannot deduct your expense to live in your house, you shouldn't be able to deduct your expense to live in the governing area. (The practice of withholding does not make the money unearned).

What are these opinions based on: Are there sources? On what point are they arguing?

Bonus: Would all agree that you cannot deduct FICA, which is insurance? According to those who deduct, what about other taxes like sales tax and real estate tax? What about hidden taxes like gasoline taxes? (Should we even go to higher consumer prices caused by taxes?)

  • 1
    I don't know if FICA is insurance, but it is not like other insurance you buy, where you pay a premium and are guaranteed a certain payment in the case of certain events. FICA is not governed that way; there's no guarantee you'll get anything at all or that the rules won't be changed about what you get and when. Jan 2, 2012 at 16:07
  • I think FICA and insurance are similar, except that the gov't doesn't pool similar risks, they just run one big group insurance (and they spend the money instead of investing it). Any insurance company can go under as well.
    – YDK
    Jan 2, 2012 at 20:49
  • @MonicaCellio I'm a disability attorney. FICA functions exactly like regular insurance. SSDI stands for social security disability insurance and coverage lapses if premiums aren't paid. Jan 31, 2016 at 1:18
  • @ShamanSTK thank you for sharing your expertise! Jan 31, 2016 at 1:24

4 Answers 4


Rabbi Dovid Bendory discusses this in a post at this link. For example, he writes,

Capital gain on the sale of private property is included as maaser income, but adjust for inflation when computing the cost. Thus, for example, gains on the sale of a personal residence is maaser income. To adjust the cost basis for inflation, use a cost-of-living index. capital loss on private property can be deducted from maaser income, but it can only count to offset the gain on the sale of private property. For example, if you sell your 5-year-old car at a capital loss versus the depreciated value, you can deduct this loss against your capital gains on the sale of your home. If you have no such capital gains, you cannot deduct this loss against W-2 income as your car (like your home) is not purchased for investment purposes but rather is property held for personal use. Donations of appreciated stock to charity are deducted at the appreciated value for tax purposes and the capital gain is not reported as income. These will appear on your Schedule A line 16. For maaser income, you need to add in the value of the capital gain as income. This is computed via form 8283 Part I by subtracting Column f from Column g for the donation in question. Note that: The entire value of Column g is considered maaser if donated to an appropriate maaser recipient. Part II is irrelevant unless you did not donate 100% of your interest in the property; in that case, you'll need to multiply the amounts by the appropriate percentage. Page 2 is irrelevant as well.

He also provides a useful online calculator that calculates maaser based on your tax forms.

  • 1
    Although I cannot see how your block quote is related to my question, R. Bendory does discuss whether taxes are maaserable and distinguishes between flat taxes/taxes on income and taxes on goods and services. He says his sources are from the book Maaser Kesafim. I'm going to track that down and see if there are any sources in there.
    – YDK
    Jan 2, 2012 at 23:53
  • The link is dead unfortunately - thankfully you had copied enough of the relevant material. Maybe this is the new correct link?: rabbi.bendory.com/docs/maaser.php
    – mbloch
    Oct 5, 2019 at 18:38

Based on my other answer, Dayan Raskin said that one is allowed to deduct taxes from Maaser, as one never really earns it.

It would be similar to one who buys a product for $100 and sell it for $150. He really earned $50.

Moreover, he said that in England the tax codes allow one to request that part of his taxes go to charity. For example, if one earned $100,000 and must pay $20,000 in taxes, he can tell the government to pay $1,000 to a recognized charity of his choice (I made up the numbers for illustrative purposes). This $1,000 is counted as Maaser.

  • It isn't similar to the product where I have to spend $100 to net the $50. Here, the government is charging me to live in their area for expenses for the community/state/country. According to you, I might argue that in order to work, I can't starve to death so I can deduct food. Substitute freeze to death and I can deduct housing, clothing and heating.
    – YDK
    Jan 2, 2012 at 6:20
  • According to Dayan Raskin, one could deduct transportation costs, babysitter, etc. Jan 2, 2012 at 19:02
  • That seems logical since you are only doing so to earn an income.
    – YDK
    Jan 2, 2012 at 20:09

I don't have sources, but just based on what I've seen and heard considering practical behavior FWIW.

The point of difference is not really taxes versus other expenses. The difference is whether you should give Maaser on Gross income or just on take home pay.

A reasonable argument can be made that theoretical money that you don't ever see, and don't have the choice to take or do with as you want such as FICA (or other mandatory deductions), was never yours and therefore you don't need to give Maaser on it.

This gets fuzzier with paycheck deductions you choose to make, for example if you have the option to have health insurance costs deducted from your paycheck or not, and you choose to do so, then it's more likely that would be considered your money that you need to pay Maaser on even though you never actually have that money in your hand.

I've never heard of a justification for not paying Maaser on take home pay that you have in your hand and then use to pay taxes such as sales tax or other expenses.

In practice it seems that if a person asks a shaila then a person's wealth level has a lot to do with the answer. A person with plenty of money is likely to be told to follow a stricter standard that results in more Maaser paid. A person who is struggling to survive from paycheck to paycheck is likely to be given a more lenient answer. There are people who have been ordered by their Rav not to pay Maaser at all because of their poor financial situation. As in any shaila CYLOR.

  • I see 3 different arguments: 1.You don't see it 2. You don't have a choice 3. It was never yours. #1 is not so strong since prior to WWII withholding wasn't mandatory- people earned money and then sent it to the gov't (and is still true for the self-employed. #2 I also don't see as different than living expenses. In both cases there is a monetary obligation to pay, and consequences if you don't (although granted that the Feds are a lot more threatening). With #3 I think we're getting to a point where your #1 and #2 make sense as well. TBC
    – YDK
    Jan 2, 2012 at 20:24
  • The way I'm reading you is that if your "salary" is $50,000, you never really earn the 50,000. The gov't is saying we are taxing your income, if you wan't to earn $35,000, we will tax you $15,000 on that transaction requiring you to look for a $50,000 salary. So taxes become an expense of earning an income, not just an expense of living in a gov't. So, even before WWII, what I saw in my paycheck was only part mine, and part what I had to pay to the gov't in order to rightfully own my share. Is this what you mean? (Does what I wrote make sense?)
    – YDK
    Jan 2, 2012 at 20:39
  • Re: FICA, I guess if the mandatory provision of Obama-care is deemed legal, you would say that insurance would be deductible?
    – YDK
    Jan 2, 2012 at 20:50
  • The main part of the argument is that you never had that money. It was never in your hand. To give another example, if I tell you that I am giving you the Brooklyn Bridge, but you can't sell it, you can't charge any tolls or do anything else with it, then do you have to pay Maaser on it?
    – follick
    Jan 2, 2012 at 22:15
  • In a similar way, if your boss says I'm giving you $50,000, but I'm keeping $15,000 of it so you only get $35,000 and you have no choice in the matter, then why should you pay Maaser on the $15,000?
    – follick
    Jan 2, 2012 at 22:31

I think it is simple, Maaser is calculated after you have satisfied your income tax obligations.

Also I think it is best, regardless of wealth level to pay Maaser, as this opens windows of blessings for the disciplined individual and keeps negative/evil forces at bay (Malachi 3:10).

Paying Maaser allows God to move more freely in your financial situation.

  • The question is asked regarding Jewish Law. Your citation of another religion is not appropriate here. It also does not answer the question as asked. Apr 23, 2017 at 1:27
  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya Yosef!
    – mevaqesh
    Apr 23, 2017 at 3:49
  • I removed the Christian citation, as it is not appropriate for this site.
    – mevaqesh
    Apr 23, 2017 at 3:49
  • The OP asked "What are these opinions based on: Are there sources? On what point are they arguing?" which seems to be looking for particular halakhic sources, not general musings.
    – mevaqesh
    Apr 23, 2017 at 3:50

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