Should I Tithe Off my Income Tax Return?

by Mike on April 14, 2010

Every once in a while, I am either asked this question, or it comes up in a discussion:

Should I tithe off my income tax refund?

The purpose of this post isn’t to discuss the validity of the tithe today. It is directed towards those who practice the act of tithing. I’ve included a brief history and definition of the tithe, but an in depth study is beyond the scope of this writing. I will provide more information on this topic in the future!

What is a tithe?

Tithe simply means “a tenth”. In the Bible the Hebrew word was ma ‘aser, and in the New Testament the Greek was apodekato.

Strong’s Concordance gives the following definitions:

  • to give, pay a tithe of anything
  • to exact receive a tenth from anyone
  • tenth part
  • payment of a tenth part

Tithing in the Bible:

The first mention of tithing in the Bible is in Genesis 14:

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: “ Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.

The law of first mention states that the first mention or occurrence of a subject in Scripture establishes a pattern, with that subject remaining unchanged in the mind of God throughout Scripture.

It is also interesting to note that tithing was established before the law. Therefore, it can be inferred that it did not end with the law.

“You shall truly tithe all the increase…” – Deuteronomy14:22

“Then the LORD said to Aaron: ‘You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel. Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting.’” – Numbers 18:20-21

What “increase” in included in the tithe:

The Bible says to tithe off your increase. The definition of increase according to Strong’s is “revenue”. Taking it a step further, the definition of “revenue” is the top line figure before deductions are made…in other word “gross income”.

Based upon my research, I believe the best model is to tithe off your gross income throughout the year. Therefore, when you receive a tax return this is money you’ve already tithed from and it would not be necessary to tithe again (however, that doesn’t mean you can not…or give a freewill offering).

That being said, there are many that faithfully tithe off their net income. I believe the Lord honors that as well! In this case, you should tithe with your returns because you would not have done so yet.

Conclusion:

According to the definition of tithe, increase, and revenue I believe the best model is to tithe off the gross. This would make a tithe off any income tax return redundant. However, if you choose to tithe from your net income, you should tithe off your income tax return as well. Whatever model you choose, remember that giving is an act of worship, so honor God with your giving.

God loves a cheerful giver!

Here are some other great posts about tithing:

What is tithing? by Christian Common Cents
To Tithe of Not to Tithe by Good Steward Keys
A Personal Tithe Testimony by Debt Free Adventure

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Yakezie Round-Up #5 | College for 10k
April 23, 2010 at 11:02 am

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Joseph | Kickdebtoff April 14, 2010 at 8:51 am

We are on the same page Lakita! I used to tithe my take home check (my net) but then my wife straigthened that -up when we got married and agreed to tithe on gross. I also believe as you said even after tithing on gross one determine if they want to tithe on the refund….. Obedience to the Holy Spirit of God is better than any sacrifice!
.-= Joseph | Kickdebtoff´s last blog ..Tired Of Being Put On Hold? – Lucyphone Is Here! =-.

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PF Journey April 14, 2010 at 10:37 am

It wasn’t until I did more digging that I decided to tithe off the gross myself :)

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Khaleef @ KNS Financial April 14, 2010 at 9:14 am

Once again I agree with you, Lakita! If your giving is based on a percentage of your income (especially with tithing), you should give from the gross amount. Then your refund is just a return of money that you have already tithed on – and you can decide to use a part of that to be a blessing or not, knowing that you have honored God!
.-= Khaleef @ KNS Financial´s last blog ..Owe the IRS Money? Here are a Few Things That You Need to Know =-.

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Wanda April 14, 2010 at 9:38 am

Great post and I totally agree.
.-= Wanda´s last blog ..Lifting the Labels =-.

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ChrisFM April 14, 2010 at 10:33 am

Ahh! I was just going to post on this topic! ;)
And agreed with Khaleef on the tithing from your gross income — don’t steal from God!
.-= ChrisFM´s last blog ..How to Obtain Your Credit Report =-.

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PF Journey April 14, 2010 at 10:38 am

Hey Chris,

Can’t wait to read your take on the subject!

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Kevin@OutOfYourRut April 14, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Well handled, and I think you’ve reached the proper conclusion in regard to tithing on the income tax refund.

If we did tithe based on a refund it opens up some sticky questions, ie, should we also tithe based on increases in investment accounts, like IRAs or 401ks?
.-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Advantages of Business Credit Cards =-.

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PF Journey April 15, 2010 at 7:11 am

I think you may have stumbled across a part 2 :)
Gross vs Net aside….should we tithe off the increase of investment accounts….to be continued…

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Kim February 14, 2012 at 3:23 pm

I tithe off my investments that I receive, gross income and I don’t tithe my income tax. Only offerings. Good post.

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Ronnie April 14, 2010 at 12:53 pm

That’s how I was always taught to tithe as well! Off the gross income, what God has blessed you to be able to earn, and not the net, what Uncle Sam takes before he lets you get yours. When I mention it to others, I sometimes get a blank stare, so I’m glad to read this, as it lets me know I’m not alone in my thinking.

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PF Journey April 15, 2010 at 7:12 am

Not alone! We may be a minority in our thinking, but not alone. As you can see from the comments, there are quite a few readers who share your way of thinking

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Jason @ Redeeming Riches April 14, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I’m going to play devil’s advocate a minute ;) – The New Testament doesn’t mention anything about tithing other than historical fact and talks much more about sacrificial grace-giving (2 Cor. 8) –

Sometimes we (myself included) give a certain percentage and feel good about ourselves and think that we’ve satisfied God’s requirement, when really there is no tithe requirement – the requirement is actually full surrender of ourselves first and that should free us up to give sacrificially.

Without sounding sanctimonious, should we consider giving our refund to help those in need even if we did tithe off the gross and consider it “grace giving”?
.-= Jason @ Redeeming Riches´s last blog ..What You Need to Know About Roth IRA Conversions =-.

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PF Journey April 14, 2010 at 3:25 pm

OK Jason…I’ll play devil’s advocate ADVOCATE (haha)

There was no law when the tithe was given in Genesis 14 either. The concept of tithe extended before the law, so it is reasonable to extrapolate that it would exist after…even under the dispensation of grace.

That being said….I agree with you 100% that our giving should extend BEYOND the tithe and really seek the heart and mind of God for how he wants us to give.

In regards to your last statement — giving is always a blessing!

Not only was the tithe a certain amount, but it went to a certain place for a certain purpose. So if you give 10% to a local charity…it is a good purpose…but is it still a “tithe” in the Biblical sense as the tithes where to be brought “into the storehouse”. Hmm…maybe a question and study for a future article!

Thanks for the thought provoking discussion!

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Kevin@OutOfYourRut April 14, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Two devils? I thought this was a Christian forum?
.-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Advantages of Business Credit Cards =-.

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PF Journey April 15, 2010 at 7:13 am

Haha right!

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Greg June 26, 2010 at 9:28 am

I heard a pastor once say that tithing was the minimum amount that Christians should give. This supports the New Testament idea of giving that Jason eludes to. If we are tithing, with the right heart attitude, I believe God will place on our heart other areas of giving that will extend past the tithe.
.-= Greg´s last blog ..Is it time to get a ‘new’ car =-.

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Jason @ Redeeming Riches April 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Kita, Great points! I don’t think that the NT says there is no more tithe, I think that the writer’s of the NT expected us to give beyond a traditional “tithe” because of the sheer grace and generosity of God to us in the Gospel. Look at Zaccheus – his response to a transformational meeting with Jesus was to give away half his possessions! Does that mean we all have to do that? No.

I guess my whole point is that too often we want to “set it and forget it” meaning we set a percentage of “tithing” and never come back to it and ask God if we should be giving more or what He would have us do, but we are so quick to increase our lifestyles and our spending when our incomes go up.
.-= Jason @ Redeeming Riches´s last blog ..What Is Your Credit Card Payoff? =-.

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Khaleef @ KNS Financial April 14, 2010 at 3:58 pm

@ Jason and Lakita, before I got swamped with tax season (and writing mainly tax based article) I planned on writing an article on what a New Testament Christian’s view of tithing should be. Hopefully, I will find time within the next week to write it, but I didn’t want to address it here since this was written under the assumption of tithing being the reader’s desire. You both bring out good points.
.-= Khaleef @ KNS Financial´s last blog ..Need More Time to File Your Tax Return? Request an Extension =-.

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Kevin@OutOfYourRut April 14, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Khaleef – I’d like to read it when you have it up. Can you tweet me at @OutOfYourRut when you have it ready?

Thanks,
Kevin
.-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Advantages of Business Credit Cards =-.

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PF Journey April 15, 2010 at 7:15 am

I look forward to reading it as well! I’m subscribed to your feed, so I’ll see it once it’s published.

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Khaleef @ KNS Financial April 15, 2010 at 11:22 am

I’ll definitely send you a tweet and look forward to everyone’s feedback.
.-= Khaleef @ KNS Financial´s last blog ..Last Minute Tax Advice From KNS Financial – A list of our most read tax articles this year =-.

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Jason @ Redeeming Riches April 14, 2010 at 4:07 pm

I love these sorts of talks – I just got done teaching 2 weeks to our Young Adults at church on this and so I need to write a few posts on it as well! Good stuff Kita! Thanks for bringing it up and it is a great question – there are a lot of people who ask this question a/b giving off of the refunds!
.-= Jason @ Redeeming Riches´s last blog ..IRA Withdrawal Rules – When Can You Withdraw Your IRA? =-.

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PF Journey April 15, 2010 at 7:16 am

I bet some great stuff came out of that teaching! Can’t wait for you to share your teaching.

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BibleDebt April 14, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Latika – What a wonderful post, I really enjoyed it. I didn’t realize that the tithe was given before the law. That is a great point. it is interesting to see what things happened before the law and what happened after the law. The Sabbath is another example.
.-= BibleDebt´s last blog ..Blog Buzz – Over 200,000 =-.

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PF Journey April 15, 2010 at 7:19 am

Yeah, when you look at tithing outside of the law there is a different perspective. It removes the stigma of being bound by the law.

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Paul Williams April 15, 2010 at 9:06 pm

So should we do everything Abraham did?
.-= Paul Williams´s last blog ..Contentment Is Not Complacency =-.

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Lakita (PFJourney) April 15, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Hey Paul!

I was wondering if you were going to chime in. I know we have different views on tithing so I was wondering if you would have any insight.

No, I’m not saying we should do everything Abraham did. But are you saying we should do nothing Abraham did? :)

I’d love to discuss more with you, perhaps offline and we may can create some co-authored article as a result…but I don’t want to deviate too far from the topic of tithing from gross vs net income and income tax.
.-= Lakita (PFJourney)´s last blog ..Deal or Frill: Angel Food Ministries =-.

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Paul Williams April 15, 2010 at 9:42 pm

:) I thought you probably knew that. I don’t mean to sound antagonistic, but we must be careful when we’re teaching doctrine. I don’t think the doctrine of giving is nearly as important as the doctrine of who God is, who Jesus is, sin, salvation, etc., but anything we teach (in the church building or within the Church) should be sound.

I won’t get too much into the whole Abraham thing here as I respect your wish to keep the comments focused, but I would say we should base doctrine on God’s clear commands and teachings. It’s not clear that God commanded Abraham to give a tithe to Melchizedek. At least, Scripture doesn’t tell us this for sure. So I think it’s dangerous to base a doctrine of giving on an assumption (the assumption being that God did command Abraham to tithe).

I think a co-written post could be interesting since we have different perspectives. We could play off each other without arguing or being derisive.
.-= Paul Williams´s last blog ..Contentment Is Not Complacency =-.

Len Penzo April 15, 2010 at 12:00 pm

I thought this was a very interesting primer on tithing!

I find it absolutely amazing how much financial help the Bible offers between its covers.

All the best,

Len
Len Penzo dot Com
.-= Len Penzo´s last blog ..Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline and Others: What’s the Best Travel Search Engine? =-.

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Lakita (PFJourney) April 15, 2010 at 9:29 pm

There is so much in the Bible on finances it is amazing! Savings, debt, diversification, investing…all right there!
.-= Lakita (PFJourney)´s last blog ..7 Cost Effective Things You Can Do Instead of Watching TV =-.

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Lakita (PFJourney) April 15, 2010 at 9:47 pm

@Paul,

You don’t sound antagonistic! I appreciate your statement about the importance of who Jesus is.
.-= Lakita (PFJourney)´s last blog ..The Cost of Speeding =-.

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Khaleef @KNS Financial May 15, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Hey Lakita (and anyone else interested),

Just wanted to let you know that I posted the first 3 articles on my series on giving. They all deal with a biblical perspective on tithing.

I hope you get a chance to read them and to add your input.
.-= Khaleef @KNS Financial´s last blog ..What Does the New Testament Teach About Tithing? =-.

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Jewel September 4, 2010 at 4:45 pm

I have a question. My husband and I own two properties in which we receive rents on. My question is this: Do we pay our tithes before we pay the mortgage on these properties, or only on what is left after the morgage has been paid?
Thank you,
Jewel

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Lakita | Personal Finance Journey September 4, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Jewel,

Good question….my thought is before….I’ll explain my reasoning by asking another question:

Do you tithe off of your income or what is left after paying your bills?

The rent is part of your income, so I would base my tithe off of that.

Blessings, Love, Favor and Increase!
Lakita

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Jacqueline March 12, 2011 at 7:22 pm

I was always taught that you go off gross, and when i got older i understood it better when i read this.

Mark 12:15-17
……….Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s
And they were amazed at him.

If ceaser (government) already taxing me and taking my money before they give me what is mine, then shouldn’t that be the same with our tith? If i made $1,000 and government or ceaser has already taken say $235 for taxes i would have $765. Well i wouldn’t tith off the $765 because that’s what is left over , that’s not what i earned. Otherwise ceaser (government) would tax me off the $765 and take from that. So if i’ve given to ceaser what is ceasers than i should give to God what is his off of what i earned, right? So to me i would still give my tith of $100 since it is a tenth of what i earned- $1,000. That’s how i understand it.

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PF Journey March 17, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Thanks for that insight Jacqueline!

********
Note: I’ve deleted a couple comments because the author name and email seemed illegitimate. Agree, disagree, or agree to disagree, but please provide a real email (not published) and author user name.

Thanks!

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Income tax retun May 14, 2011 at 3:47 am

Thanks for sharing a great article on income tax return.

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Michael Katende July 14, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Paul Williams, your thoughts are refreshing. Always better that one’s beliefs have a good basis.

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Terrelcia Corbett January 16, 2012 at 5:36 am

I agree with you, I believe GOD looks at your heart…and I give to other just because to someone smile & I can stand to see someone without. I don’t believe tithing is within just the church. I just spoke with my co worker and this was comfortmation for me. I do believe 10% comes from anything, meaning whatever God laids on my heart to do for someone or someplace. Thanks stay blessed!

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Fabiola March 3, 2012 at 2:24 pm

This was so helpful. I desperately needed clarification on this matter, thank you so much!!! Stay blessed.

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Robyn April 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Thanks so much for explaining this! I was really bothered by this issue today and was not sure what to do about my tax refund, but now I understand it more clearly. Thank you!! :)

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Lea January 17, 2013 at 5:38 am

Great discussion! Thank you all for the posts. After thinking, we too shall tithe off of our gross income and use income tax return for offerings. Makes wonderful sense, especially since God has provided the funds anyways. Welp, be blessed everyone.

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Sandra Jo Hembrick March 2, 2013 at 9:40 pm

I really like the comments ,i figure we didnt suppose to pay tithe on our income tax,but i wanted to know for sure,i wanted to be clear with God,not i am sure,and not asssuming, thank God,for you and His word,its hard at times but I must Trust God,

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