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Morality of Deducting Charitable Contributions

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 [3] 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?