Morality of Deducting Charitable Contributions

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I was poking around Debt Hater this morning when I found her post about how she wasn’t deducting her charitable contributions to her church on the grounds that her donations (tithe) should be 10% gross, not net, and you shouldn’t be rewarded for doing it (the deduction). Here’s what she said:

My church provides every member with a receipt for the money they’ve given — in tithes and/or offerings — for tax purposes.

But I didn’t claim that on my taxes. It seems wrong to me. If you believe in tithing, you know that you tithe 10%. That’s gross, not net, because if you tithe net, then you’re paying the government before you’re paying God. So, if you get the money back through taxes, then you’ve gotten your blessing that way, and not God’s way, whatever way that may be.

The fundamental difference in thinking is probably with the perception of the deduction – DH sees it as the government giving you money (a reward) whereas I see it as you keeping your money. If you donate 10% of your gross income, you’ve actually lost 12.5% of your gross because 25% of that has gone towards the government. So if you’re paid $100, you donate $10, you’re actually down $12.50 because $2.50 of that $10 donated goes towards the government in taxes on income. The government has decided that donations are not considered income (in effect) so they let you deduct it, thus you get the keep the $2.50 because you gave away the $10 (the government is not rewarding you, you are merely paying less because you’ve in effect, out of your generosity, earned less).

Now, let’s say you still aren’t convinced that you should deduct it. If you deduct it, you can donate $12.50 instead of just $10 – thus not only are you not keeping it, you’re making your gift that much larger. Of course, now you deduct $12.50 on your taxes instead of $10 and the never-ending math cycle continues, but you get the idea.

As for the question of “Are you doing it to provide something to your community or are you doing it to hide money from Uncle Sam?” I don’t see how donating money is hiding any money because you don’t get that money back later.

DH, I think you should take the deduction.

What do you all think?

{ 39 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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39 Responses to “Morality of Deducting Charitable Contributions”

  1. Rocketc says:

    Ahh, good old feelings, nothing but feelings… I wish I could just do what just feels right for me. It feels good to eat “moose tracks” every night at 10:30 pm, it feels good to sleep in late every morning, it feels good to ram my car into the guy who cuts me off, it feels good to make fun of Amanda… 😉

  2. Ben says:

    I agree with Rocketc, deducting your contributions shows good stewardship with your money.

  3. zen says:

    In fitting with the “render unto caesar…”

    The deductions are being rendered unto you – it’s your money. If anything, it gives you more money to pass to the church – so why not take it and use it? It’s not like it’s blood money or tainted money.

  4. Savvy Steward says:

    She should take the deduction and donate it back to church or to another organization.

    I hate to see it become such a legalistic issue. The way I see it, for followers of Jesus, God is far more concerned about whether we trust him with 100% of our finances instead of whether we give exactly 10% or not.

    I think the tithe is a good starting point, but once believers calculate what their living expenses are going to be, as income rises so should their level of giving instead of their standard of living.

  5. Pastor Clevance M. Weekes says:

    The government may permit the deduction of tithe as a “charity,” but God does not. Friends, we do not pay tithe, we return tithe. This money was never ours in the first place. For those who do not hold the Scriptures as normative, this is not an issue. But for those who believe in the Word, Leviticus 27:30 tells us that “all” the tithes belong to the Lord. It is an impossibility to “give a charitable gift” to God which belonged to Him in the first place. What’s more, to claim tithes on our tax return as a “charitable deduction” under the current legal, and technical definition of such, is a moral fraud. Tithes does not, and never has fit the definition of a “charitable act.” On the contrary, to return tithe is a matter of faith, and obedience. Obedience to the plain written word of God, and faith, that God will honor His word, and bless the rest. Very high are the moral standards of Christian norm, but the love of money seduces many.

    • kendra says:

      pastor have you considered this matter carefully? I go to a tithe believing church but waht you seem to be missing is the key point. She has returned her tihtes to God the deduction is on the rest of her money which th Lord allows us to keep.
      At the very least she should claim the deduction in order to give even more after her tithes… the offering. The point when we give more than the bare minimum.

    • AJ says:

      Amen Pastor Weekes, I’m going to share this with my family!

  6. rocketc says:

    Pastor Weekes,
    I understand your feelings, but there is nothing morally wrong with taking a deduction for the tithe. You could also say that it is morally wrong for me to claim the child tax credit… I agree that all that we own belongs to the Lord and is a direct blessing from Him, if that is the case, why should we let the government take more of it? I can’t think of too many more wasteful uses for our money than to “donate” it to the government. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for taxes, but I don’t understand why the government needs 40% or more of what I earn.

    • Pastor Clevance M. Weekes says:

      What’s morally wrong is the lie. Tithe never was, and never will be charity. That’s Scriptural fact. One can say I don’t care. One can say so what? But if Christians cannot be trust to be Biblically truthful,including with the money, we might as well close the Churches, and let it be known that our religion is a pretentious fraud.

      It blows the mind, how money clouds good judgment, and compromises character.

      And by the way, what does it matter to recognize the tithe as what it is: God’s portion, and not claim it? Why is the money important? Are we not planning to walk on transparent gold in the kingdom?

  7. jared says:

    This is the legalistic view point of tithing. I mean really? why are we so worried about claiming 10% on our taxes. Go ahead be my guest, let the enemy keep your money. We forget that it’s all about stewardship. if we can get that concept into our head, then we’ll begin to realize that 10% should have no significance on the minds of NT christians anyways. We are called to be 100% stewards, and requiring a tithe is a great distraction that the enemy has put in the church. We become distracted by the questions, should i do this on net or gross, what about profits increase, first fruits, at the beginning at the end of the week, how should i, when should i, where should i . .. . in front of the church, behind the church, at the info desk, should i give cash, checks or credit cards, what about my retirement money, what about my pension, what about my disability, can i give to the church, can i give to my pastor, what about charities, what about my bills, what about my debt. . . . . and bla bla bla, and on and on and on it goes here. I hate to write all of that nonsense, but it helps people understand why God gave us the Holy Spirit. If we can’t use the Holy Spirit to guide our giving, but instead ask all the questions in order to line up with Israel, Abraham, and Moses, then the Holy Spirit is given in vain. Did it ever come to question in your mind as to why the Spiritual gift of giving is the only gift with a minimum requirement?

    • RobMan says:

      I am not sure I understand where you are coming from on this? Did not Abraham Pay Tithes?? If we are Abraham’s seed we woudl do the works of Abraham?? That is new testament not Old. God created structure an order. The Holy Spirit is gien to keep the Christian on the right path and that thins are done decently and in order. To think that giving has no principles and “give as you are led” is rediculous.. Obaove an beyond the tithe yes, but God intituted the tithe to support his preachers/teachers and profits. Remember Melchizadec in the OT?? This was during Abraham’s day before the Tribe of Levi.

  8. Scott says:

    My religion focuses on receiving free, give free. Your contribution to the church is voluntary and not based on a law pre-Christ. Secondary, our speakers / shepards are not paid so this does not put a strain on the congregation when so many are feeling the pinch.

    We would rather devote our time to teaching people vs. make a business out of it.

    We have 180 people and only have expenses of appx. $1,250 / month for maintaining the building. If ones want to give more, fine. We also do not pass plates, we have contribution boxes in a couple places for ones to give discretely & privately.

  9. RobMan says:

    It is GOOD stewardship to take the full deduction to Charities. That leaves more to give Charities later. It is not against the Law and makes good fiscal and spiritual sense. “Render to Caesar what is Caesars”. Don’t give them what they have not demanded.. Give it to God…

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