Related to this question.

Can tax itself (particularly in the land of Israel) ever be considered maaser? If your tax money is going towards nationally funded projects, building infrastructure, developing the land, benefits and support (etc.) why wouldn't it be considered maaser?

The ramification being that you would have to recalculate the maaser that you would actually pay given your income, post tax, which could be nothing if the tax you pay is high enough.

  • 1
    Taxes are expenses not gifts.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 22:55
  • Last week i learnt that school fees and yeshiva fees can be Masser.
    – Binyamin
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 12:58
  • there is a book by the AOJS about 'maaser kesafim'. on the chapter on taxation it mentions an iggrot moshe (i think OC 143) that tax money is 'never earned' and therefore cannot count for maaser, however there is a contrary opinion in some cases brought in the gemara (and paskened by the Taz). This reference to the Taz is in chapter 4 of the AOJS book but I couldn't find the source inside...
    – bondonk
    Commented Jan 2, 2014 at 1:05

1 Answer 1


Basically, ma'aser is given on net income rather than gross income. My Rav has said that the basic concept is that one treats 'income' as the net after expenses. Taxes are considered as expenses in this view. As a result, when calculating ma'aser, taxes withheld are treated as expenses and tax refunds are treated as income.

The comment above by @bondonk mentioning the Igrot Moshe that tax money is 'never earned', would fit with this explanation. It is subtracted from the total amount used to calculate ma'aser (as an expense), not treated as a ma'aser payment.

Many people use the net pay after withholding for the calculation. The 401K is also not treated as income since it will be treated as income after retirement when the money is withdrawn from the account.

Maaser Kesafim and the Development of Tax Law

This article explores the development of the rules of Maaser Kesafim, the Jewish practice of non-agricultural tithing, and compares the income definition rules found in the halacha to those found in the Internal Revenue Code. The ancient rabbis and those who crafted the Federal tax rules stuggled with similar issues in deciding what should be included in income and what deductions should be allowed. Comparing the two regimes and how they address those issues reveals the extent to which culture and different enforcement mechanisms affect the development of the law.

Text on this


Maaser Kesafim: Giving a Tenth to Charity Domb, Cyril (editor) Halacha Feldheim 1999

From times of old it has been an honored Jewish practice to give maaser, a tenth of our earnings to tzedaka, charity. Yet a great many questions arise when we proceed to fulfill the mitzva. For example: how is income defined? Are capital receipts subject to the obligation of maaser? If they are, how should indivisible assets be dealt with? Is there a specific "tax year"? What expenses are allowed? How is capital investment to be dealt with? How are charities defined, and is there an order of priorities in the matter? To find answers, a research team of the British Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists made a careful study of the Shulchan Aruch and the responsa literature. Where no clear-cut answers could be found, the next step was to turn to the great Torah authorities of our day. This book is a record of the results of their investigations.

  • Hello sabbahillel. Does "net pay" mean after taxes or after taxes AND mortgage, tuition, auto loans, utilities, purchasing something for performing a mitzvah (like tiffilin, a siddur, a shas, a pair of Shabbat candleholders, a trip to Israel, the most beautiful etrog), etc.? It sounds like a lot of people are looking for a tax loophole.
    – JJLL
    Commented May 25, 2014 at 0:06
  • @JJLL That often depends on how much people spend. There are people who add back the withholding for the various insurances. Many people count the withholding for the 401K as an expense because they will treat all income after retirement (from the 401K) as income for ma'aser purposes and do not want to count it twice. It is easier to just take a straight 10% of the pay check and put it in the ma'aser account. Most people do not take other matters from the maase account unless they just do not have the money. If they really cannot afford things then they would be able to pay tehemselves as ani. Commented May 25, 2014 at 10:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .