I'm asking this question for my son.

Scholarships are considered taxable income in some states, though this money usually gets sent directly to the school, so the recipient usually never accesses it.

Unemployment insurance money goes directly to the receiver and is considered taxable income by the IRS.

Since both items are considered income, but in different ways, is a person required to give ma'aser?

  • If you are getting scholarships then it doesn't sound like you have enough money to give maaser to others. You're getting tzedaka yourself!
    – Double AA
    Jun 11, 2014 at 17:44
  • @DoubleAA - Duhhh ... My bad. You have a point, here. Well, almost ... Financial aid is based mainly on parents' income, not the child's, but the reward goes to the child's tuition. I'd have to ask a different question, I guess as to whether the parents have to give ma'aser, but, I think the answer would be no, based on the same reasoning.
    – DanF
    Jun 11, 2014 at 17:50
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    @DoubleAA - Not all scholarships are based just on financial need. BTW. It could be based partially on finances and part on merit or scholarship, or not on finances at all. Adds an interesting "mix" to what scholarships are really about. And even if you consider this "tzedaka" (not sure if it meets this definition, though), don't you have to give ma'aser from tzedaka as well?
    – DanF
    Jun 11, 2014 at 18:10
  • Since this already has an accepted answer, it should be left open. Of course, since I gave the accepted answer, almost 4 years earlier than the votes to close, I would think that it is a valid question. However, it was asked as a general question and not as an explicit request for a psak. Apr 13, 2018 at 1:45

1 Answer 1


When I received unemployment insurance, I took out ma'aser. One of the reasons is that even an ani who gets tzedaka is required to give ma'aser from that tzedakah. I keep a virtual quicken account to keep track of ma'aser and add 10% of income to this virtual ledger. Whenever I give tzedakah, I subtract the amount of the tzedakah from the virtual ledger. Since it is a "dummy" account for bookkeeping only, I do not have to worry about going negative or only giving tzedakah from a particular check book. I zero out the ledger at the end of each year (if the balance is below zero). As a result, I would add 10% whenever I received credit from the scholarship fund. I do not have a source for doing this, but it feels as if it would be the correct thing to do.

I also found this

Maaser and Unemployment Insurance

Thursday, 11 May 2006 Rabbi Dovid Bendory

Ask the Rabbi...
I am currently out of work and receiving unemployment insurance. Is this income maaser-free or do I need to pay maaser on it?

There is no such thing as "maaser-free income" — we owe maaser on ordinary income, interest, and gifts — even on tax-free interest. Even a poor person who survives on donated tzedaka — in other words, all of whose income comes from money that itself has been given as maaser — is required to give maaser on the tzedaka he receives.

With regard to your unemployment insurance, there are different kinds, some of which are taxable and some of which are not. I am very much inclined to say dina d'malchuta dina — we follow the law of the land — and thus if your unemployment insurance is taxable income then it is subject to maaser.

Having said that, there are several potential leniencies available to you.

What is your "normal" maaser period for maaser calculation? I advocate an annual calculation because it is easy to do with one's tax return, but not everyone would agree to this. A much stronger argument can be made to calculate maaser annually on Rosh HaShannah rather than based on the tax year. Even better, some calculate monthly, weekly, or even daily — never letting the day pass without giving away maaser on the money earned that day.

Now, since I normally calculate annually, if chas v'shalom I am unemployed do I immediately need to tithe my unemployment insurance on receipt? No — I can wait until the year end with the hope that before then I will have a job with greater income again. Thus I accumulate a maaser defecit that I owe and will make up before my calculation period closes.

But if I normally calculate monthly, weekly, or daily, then it would much more of a leniency to move to an annual calculation just for the purpose of delaying my maaser obligation. I would be stricter with regard to such a change of my established practice.

Note that if you truly cannot afford to give away your maaser, you can give maaser to yourself. That is, you can fall into the category of a person who is eligible to receive maaser and discharge your maaser obligation by supporting yourself. The best way to do this is to find another person in a similar situation and give your maaser to him or her and that other person can give his or her maas er to you. Note that you should not do this as an exchange but rather as a gift one to the other, and also note that the gift received is income subject to maaser.

I would actually advocate a combination of these approaches. Set up a separate account — either an actual bank account or a piggy bank at home — and deposit your maaser obligation there. When you deposit it, have the following intention in mind:

I hereby separate this money for maaser. Should I — G-d forbid! — become impoverished such that I need this money, I will be eligible to receive this maaser as a loan to myself which I will repay when Hashem provides me with the means to do so. After repaying the loan, the money repaid will either be kept in a loan fund for others I encounter in such a situation or will be given away to an appropriate charity. Should I — please G-d! — return to work without ever needing this money, I will then give this money to an appropriate charity. May it be Your Will, Hashem, that by the merit of my separating this maaser, I soon find an appropriate means of supporting myself.

There is no need to actually verbally declare this, though doing so will both make it a firm commitment that you will have to keep according to Torah Law and make it a personal prayer. You may want to add a Psalm or two if you decide to go that route.

I hope this is helpful. It is clear from your correspondance with me that you take maaser seriously, and that itself is of tremendous spiritual merit for you. May Hashem soon reestablish your means of supporting yourself.

See also:

Maaser Calculator — to compute your maaser obligation!
Computing Maaser - How much tzedakah (charity) do I owe - How much charity should I give?

  • Maaser Calculator link is broken.....
    – MTL
    Jun 11, 2014 at 18:36
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    Nice answer. Gives some interesting ideas and I like the suggestions. Still waiting for answer to the scholarship part of the question. This is a tough one, perhaps.
    – DanF
    Jun 11, 2014 at 18:42
  • @DanF I use quicken so I set up a virtual account to keep track of my ma'aser. THat way I can let it go negative with no ill effects. If it was a regular checking or savings account, I would have to keep it positive and stop writing tzedaka checks when it threatened to go negative. I would also have to make sure that I used the correct check book and take out money when I gave cash. Jun 11, 2014 at 21:38
  • @DanF personally, I would mark the scholarship money as "income" and put the money into the virtual ma'aser account. I do not have a source for this though. Jun 11, 2014 at 21:39
  • @Shokhet While this is now years later, I have updated the broken links to now work. Apr 12, 2018 at 0:13

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