Tithable Income

Some years ago a youngish man, who only lived in our ward a short time, was giving a talk in sacrament meeting. I don’t really recall the talk, except that he mentioned in the course thereof that it is acceptable to pay one’s tithing on one’s net income. After he sat down, a SP counselor, who was presiding, stormed up to the podium and red-facedly “corrected” this scandalous misinformation, telling us forcefully and in no uncertain terms that we are to pay tithing on our gross incomes. Ironically, however, as I’m sure you all know, he was wrong. (So much for the protection of having a presiding authority on the stand ready to remedy such mistakes.) The Church’s official position has long been that we are to pay 10% or our “increase,” which has been interpreted to mean “income.” No one is authorized to make any statement other than that. Which is to say that how we calculate tithing is simply between us and the Lord.

This official Church position doesn’t stop members from talking or wondering about it. My impression is that a lot of members simply aren’t very comfortable coming to this conclusion on their own, and would much prefer to be told how to calculate their tithing so they wouldn’t have to take the responsibility themselves. Personally, I like the Church’s policy in this area. I agree with President Hinckley, who used to talk about the virtue of not having some sort of a voluminous Tithing Code with its accompanying Regulations.

There is indeed an issue there in choosing between net and gross income, but we act as though that’s the only issue. People who obsess over this particular decision point simply haven’t thought very seriously about it. Some examples:

- If you own a business, do you tithe on gross receipts or do you deduct costs of goods sold and other expenses first? (In this context, “gross” income can be a very misleading concept.)

- If you receive health insurance as a benefit, do you tithe the value of that? (I’m a partner in a law firm, and so I have to pay the full cost of my health insurance with distributions I receive as part of my draw. Does it or should it matter how the benefit is paid?)

- Do you tithe on the value of bartered services? If you trade babysitting services with another family, is the fact that you don’t exchange cash determinative as to whether it is tithable?

- Do you tithe on the value of home production, such as the harvest from your garden?

- Do you tithe gifts?

- If your spouse dies and you receive a life insurance payment, do you tithe that?

- If you sell your house, what if anything do you tithe? Does it matter whether you roll the proceeds over into a new house?

- What if you’re in a European country with tax rates substantially higher than what we have in the U.S.? In such a situation is tithing on one’s “gross” income even feasible? I’d be interested in comment from European Saints.

These are just a few examples that I came up with off the top of my head without even thinking very hard about it. (Please feel free to add additional examples in the comments.)

You could use U.S. Federal income tax law as a proxy for answering these types of questions. Is that always going to be a good idea?

My basic point is that I know a lot of Saints who are kind of pompous about the fact that they tithe on their gross incomes, as if they’re super spiritual for doing so. But I can’t help but wonder whether they’ve really thought very seriously and hard about what really makes sense as we try to navigate the undefined country of tithable income.

Comments

  1. I knew lots of people who took pride in paying tithing on the money received for gifts, especially wedding gifts; I was told that it’s considered the “right and proper” way to start a marriage.

    What about the money you get from student loans? I’ve known people to pay tithing on that.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    BTW, the CoC has a different system. They tithe only after basic living expenses; they actually have a little form that you fill out.

    (I really disagree with tithing student loans. A loan is not income.)

  3. Latter-day Guy says:

    “Do you tithe on the value of home production, such as the harvest from your garden?”

    I remember my dad telling me about the little black book my grandmother kept when he was a child; she would notate the value of anything they harvested (according to current market prices) and then pay 10% of that as tithing in cash. As far as I’m aware, that practice has not been passed on to subsequent generations (which makes sense if you are not supporting your family primarily by farming).

  4. My mission companion was corrected by our mission president for saying that tithing was supposed to be on gross income.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    The movement from bishop’s storehouses that dealt in actual commodities to monetizing contributions seems to have influenced the way we thing about what should be tithed. (Love the story , L-d Guy.)

    Andy, good for your MP. I think a lot of leaders don’t have the cojones to correct what on the surface sort of seems like a super-orthodox position, but it absolutely needs to be corrected.

  6. I agree that loans are not income. What about a tuition waiver scholarship though? It could be defined as income, yet most students couldn’t come up with the cash to pay tithing on it.

  7. In my German mission, some saints suggested it was a question whether you wanted gross blessings or net blessings. That German witticism aside, you are right in the OP: the church policy is quite clear in its lack of clarity.

    In the end, the question the bishop asks is not, “How did you calculate your tithing,” but “Are you a full tithe payer?”

    I had a brother come to tithing settlement once with an elaborate explanation of how he calculated his tithing “base”. I let him tell me about it because he seemed to want to, but in the end, I asked him if he was comfortable that he’d paid a full tithing, consistent with his “increase” and he said yes, so we moved on.

    A friend who served many years ago in Norway pointed out that many saints paid 80% of their income in taxes and withholdings — for them to pay 10% of their gross would mean 50% of their take-home pay, and that was not required. I don’t know if the tax situation in Norway has changed in the last 30 years or so or not.

  8. I only tithe on cash receipts that I directly control and spend. So I don’t pay tithing on the portion of my income that goes to the government and child support, because that is increase that other people decide how to spend regardless of my own preferences and wishes. However, I do pay tithing on the money withheld from my paycheck for insurance of various kinds, because that is my choice.

    I do not pay tithing on money that goes into my 401-k, because I will pay tithing on any money I pull out of my retirement accounts in the future. I think that will be lots easier to track than adjusting my tithing to account for the rises and falls in retirement account value. In other words, I don’t pay anything until cash passes back through my hands.

    If I received an inheritance or a payment from life insurance, I would pay tithing on that whole amount (after taxes), as it is a new source of increase that I control how I spend. I also pay tithing on any cash gifts I receive. If I get a tax refund, I tithe on that, since I didn’t pay tithing on the money when it was withheld. However, I do not do any tracking of non-cash benefits I receive, including home equity that is rolled into purchase of a new home. (It occurs to me that I actually pay tithing on money used to pay property tax, so I suppose I could deduct that amount from my tithing payments.)

    It is clearly incorrect to pay tithing on student loan funds that must be repaid, unless perhaps tithing is NOT paid on the money used to repay the loans.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    Joseph, all I know is I sure didn’t tithe on my tuition waivers! As you note, there is no way I could have done so.

    Paul, yeah, I’ve often heard the net blessings or gross blessings quip. It’s cute, but I personally don’t find it at all helpful. I think you clearly did the right thing with that brother in his tithing settlement. And you sort of confirmed my working assumption, that this net v. gross debate is sort of U.S.-centric and simply wouldn’t work in Europe.

  10. No one is authorized to make any statement other than that.

    That is almost a verbatim quote from the CHI. And yet, even after having read and discussed that passage from the CHI, leaders above my pay grade still feel justified in insisting that tithing is to be paid on gross. It’s one more reason why I wish the CHI–or parts of it–was available to the general membership.

  11. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    I actually heard a humble and compelling reason articulated for paying on the gross (as opposed to wanting “blessings in gross”). The guy made the point that even the money that did not go home with him to his bank account still contributed to his personal and family increase. The educational, infrastructure, military protection, ect. . . is not so much an entitlement to the citizen as it is an exchange for taxes rendered.

    While I don’t suggest that he is absolutely right, it more weight than just wanting something more than “net” blessings.

  12. All I’ve got to add is that if you are a high counsellor or other leader giving a talk about tithing and there was a period of time in your life when you didn’t pay tithing, just keep your damn mouth shut. You aren’t helping anyone by confessing that you weren’t always faithful in paying your tithing. This is especially true if you are speaking to a student ward.

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, Larry, that is the substantive point people make in favor of gross, that in some sense those taxes and other withholdings represent an indirect benefit to you.

    There’s a scene in the classic movie The Mark of Zorro with Tyrone Power, where the evil authorities post a sign that grapes will no longer be accepted in payment of taxes, but one out of every five bottles of the finished wine must be paid instead. That’s funny to me because that represents only a 20% tax rate; oh the horror! I’d be thrilled to pay taxes at such a rate! But of course the money wasn’t actually going to the public good, but to line the pockets of the alcalde and commandant. I can well imagine that someone upset about the way his taxes are spent (the enormous cost to the fisc of our highly questionable adventure in Iraq, massive budget deficits, etc.) and lacking any control over such expenditures might have a problem with that line of thought.

  14. These are good things to think about. I am glad you wrote about it and got me thinking. As I have recently moved into a new ward, I have been reminded of the importance of sticking to the teachings found in the scriptures and teachings of the prophets and explicitly noting when I am injecting my own thoughts or feelings. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  15. my husband is most comfortable paying 10% of whatever hits our bank account and that’s mostly what we stick with.

    when he was in the military (and we were in a military ward), we had a gospel doctrine lesson where the teacher laid out how we should figure tithing. she insisted we pay on gross income and then went on to say we needed to pay 10% of the military housing allowance. those of us who lived on base, and thus “traded in” our housing allowance, needed to pay 10% of what our housing allowance would be. no one argued with her as she said it would also be considered appropriate (though not mandated) to figure what our free health care was worth and tithe a portion of that. i was new to the church and thought it sounded bizarre, but took it as, well, gospel doctrine.

    my mother-in-law’s bishop refused her a recommend because she paid zero dollars in tithing and made the mistake of saying she was not a tithe payer. her only income was my deceased father-in-law’s retirement stipend, social security, and life insurance payments.

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    makakona, your husband’s method seems reasonable to me. Military housing and allowances in lieu thereof is another good example of things people obsess over.

  17. Julie M. Smith says:

    “So I don’t pay tithing on the portion of my income that goes to . . . child support, because that is increase that other people decide how to spend regardless of my own preferences and wishes. ”

    ?!?

    Please tell me this isn’t saying what I think it is saying.

  18. Gets complicated when you live abroad also. Many of us living overseas get a variety of allowances and benefits (rent, tuition for English school, tax equalization etc.) and I’ve never met anyone yet who considers any of the benefits paid directly by the employer as subject to tithe. Then there are some of us that traded that arrangement for simple cash from which to pay the list of things above. In cash form this feels different but it’s really the same thing.

    In this wealthy expat context often occurs my least favorite tithing comment. This is where a group of wealthy brethren sit around and pat themselves on the back for how much tithing they pay. I’ve had to walk out before from a Stake Priesthood meeting because of this.

    I like the deliberate thought-inducing ambiguity and hope to see more of this in other areas.

  19. I like to look at fast offerings as a way to kind of smooth out these gray areas.
    For example, I don’t tithe gifts I’ve received. But when it comes time to reconcile the monthly budget, if I feel like I have received a lot that month then I will increase my fast offerings as a way to pass on the extra help I feel I have received.

  20. #17: What, you mean am I saying it wasn’t my choice to have the kids? Nah.

    I’m just saying that the child support is spent by my ex-wife any way she wants, not even necessarily directly on the kids.

    At one point, the ex asked me if I paid tithing on the child support I pay her, and I said no, since it’s increase to her and not to me. She actually saw the logic in that and said she was going to pay her own tithing on child support, which seems right to me.

  21. Julie, his standard is self-consistent I think. He doesn’t consider child support “his” increase, as he has no control over it. As one who has never paid nor received child support, I guess I’m missing the obvious implied by your #17.

    You’re not implying he’s responsible for paying the tithing so his ex doesn’t have to, are you? Unless tithing was figured into the divorce settlement (which I can’t imagine it was), it seems like it’s entirely up to his ex to decided what to do with the payments she receives (ie., whether to tithe it or not).

  22. Julie M. Smith says:

    Martin, it sounded to me as if he were saying that he had no more control over child support than he does over taxes, which only makes sense if the children were conceived without his consent. And, secondly, that it would be his “preference and wish” not to pay child support.

    But I sincerely, sincerely hope I misunderstood the comment.

  23. Another issue I still wonder about is, should money be tithed twice? Two scenarios that have happened to me:

    1) A relative gives me a gift and says, “Don’t pay tithing on that because I already did.” And there’s a valid point to that; should the Church get, in essence, 20% of that money? There have actually been times I haven’t paid on a gift, for this reason.

    2) Here’s a less valid one: I hire a Mormon kid to mow my lawn and pay him $25 out of my household funds, upon which I’ve already paid my tithing. Of course, the kid is going to pay tithing too, if he’s conscientious. Again, the Church gets 20%?

    If my increase gets passed on to someone else as their cash increase in exchange for services, is there any justification for giving myself a rebate on that? (I don’t really think so, but it’s an interesting point to consider. You could also start to distinguish between paying Mormons and non-Mormons; yes, you’d pay tithing on money paid to non-Mormons because you know they’re not tithing, but perhaps not on members you know are supposed to tithe.)

  24. For a more expanded take on the question of whether and how to tithe gifts (a take without any definitive answers, mind you), see my old post here:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2007/02/28/questions-about-tithing/

    Also, I promote tithing on the “gross” in that post, but not dogmatically, and I’m getting more liberal about it in my old age …

  25. What if one’s increase by the end of the year is zero, after covering irreducible payments, such as rent and food? Or if one has a decrease in property / money / whatever over the course of a year, despite working and receiving an income?

    Do we pay tithing on a paycheck or on an increase? I am not convinced that the two are the same.

  26. Personal opinions:

    * Increase received from others increase: I pay on this
    * Company perks: I don’t pay on this. Ex: health insurance provided by my employer–this is a cost of business (the portion I cover) and out of my hands (the portion I don’t cover)
    * Tuition reimbursements, loans, etc.: Falls under the second bullet

    As to business increase: never pay percentage of gross. Consider: if I am a taxicab driver and my profit margin is 5% (in that, my revenue was only 5% higher than my costs). By paying 10% on gross, I have effectively driven myself out of business (every day I have to dip into capital to pay tithing). The only increase I witness is net: that 5%. Hence I should pay .5% of my revenue (or 10% of my profit). NOT doing so is not paying on my increase.

    I have been in wards where new members are taught in new members and investigator classes that they can and should pay more than 10%. During one particularly colorful instance, the teacher bragged about paying 15% to 20% when he could. While this is noble in intent, it is completely out of line with what has been revealed. 10% of your increase, no more, no less. Any more should be encouraged to be donated to the free will offerings. PEF, BOM fund, temple fund, etc. can and should be donated to when you can!

    I’m not sure why this becomes such a contentious topic: in my opinion (based solely upon limited, anecdotal experience), the debate becomes inflamed when people seek to satisfy their pride by announcing their “correct” way of paying tithing. The Lord’s rebuke in D&C 121 is particularly astute in this: gratifying pride is a no-no :-)

    Cheerio,
    -Tom

  27. I live in France. Here the VAT (fat sales tax) raises much more money than income tax, so the majority of people don’t pay income tax.

    The issue people talk about is “Do people need to pay tithing on RMI” (revenue minimum d’insertion) which is welfare, enough welfare to pay rent, utilities and food, bad food. If you do, you are below subsistence. For people not in the city where the church is, transportation to church and it’s activities is about 10% of RMI. So an active RMI member paying tithing would have 80% of the minimum they need. If you are able-bodied, the solution is to get a job, bit if you are not, this is a real dilemma. Different bishops in our stake treat it differently.
    I forgot to mention that the net vs gross is very different in different countries in Europe because the taxes might fall on the employer or the individual, i.e. the same total cost for an employer may have very different gross wage and similar take-home pay for the employee.

  28. First, some additional examples:
    -Should one tithe investment income? Capital gains and dividends or just dividends? Is adjusting returns for inflation acceptable? Do capital losses count as negative increase for tithing? If houses are considered investment assets, should the imputed rent of a home be tithed like other dividends?

    -If home food production is titheable, what about home produced services like childcare or meal preparation?

    The definition of income used for taxes varies across jurisdictions and time but often involves pages of technical details. I agree that it is silliness to think that the definition of increase would be much simpler. Of course, the stakes of the argument are rather low for the wealthy, since their financial obligations to the gospel extend well beyond tithing. There, the breakdown between the amount on the tithing line, fast offerings line, humanitarian aid line, and outside charities is of secondary importance.

  29. Someone reading all these comments might think this is an accountant/lawyer seminar.

    FWIW, a couple of years ago I discovered that one can made direct deposits to the Church for their contributions and that information as to what one paid or did not pay or in what category is private and never reaches the ward financial clerk, your bishop and ward busybodies. Here is the link as to how to go about it: http://www.ldsclerks.com/index.php?title=Donations_to_Church_Headquarters

    Last tithing settlement I told the Bishop we pay directly and consider our selves full tithe payers…end of discussion/ analyzing/second guessing. How I calculate it, what I pay, how I pay is totally private and personal as it should be..I am at peace with that

  30. twiceuponatime says:

    Two thoughts:’
    1. When someone asked my mission president about net v. gross, he stated: “It’s up to you and the Lord, and there is no official position on this matter. However, I see no reason to pay tithing on money that goes to the government.”

    2. Julie in #22 shows she really doesn’t understand how child support works. We fathers have no control whatsoever on what the mom does with the money. The government takes it from our paycheck, sends her a check, and she can do whatever she wants with it. It really is like taxes.

  31. #22, 30, I would presume that Julie understands quite well that one could argue that it is the presumably voluntary act of having children that gives rise to the legal obligation to support the children. Although in tithing law we are free to come our own peace, the argument that because there is no control there must be no tax (tithing) is rejected in U.S. tax code, for instance. Paying child support provides you with the very tangible benefit of relieving you of the obligation to take care of your own kids.

  32. Yeechang Lee says:

    “I do not pay tithing on money that goes into my 401-k, because I will pay tithing on any money I pull out of my retirement accounts in the future. I think that will be lots easier to track than adjusting my tithing to account for the rises and falls in retirement account value. In other words, I don’t pay anything until cash passes back through my hands.”

    I would reword the last sentence as “I don’t pay anything until cash passes through my hands the first time.” I pay my tithing “up front”, including on money that goes into a 401(k) or IRA, then don’t pay tithing on interest or other investment returns on the money; I figure that the church is investing my tithing (whether literally or figuratively) and getting returns on it in the same way.

  33. I live in a Western European country where the employer is responsible for all tax and social security withholdings (individuals are not required to file tax returns unless self-employed), so for the vast army of wage earners and salaried employees, net income is what people are concerned about.

    For those who do file individual tax returns, the tax code only allows up to about $250/year in deductions for tithing paid.

  34. In my opinion, the first principle of tithing calculation should be the “tithed once” rule. In other words, if the GDP is X in any given year, one tenth of X is the proper tithing on that, when aggregated over all producers.

    To start with that means it is insane to expect business owners to pay tithing on gross receipts. If they did that, we would collectively be obligated to pay more than 100% of the national product to the Church, and the economy would collapse overnight. Three or four hundred percent tithing is no doubt not what the prophets had in mind.

    In addition there are all sorts of reasonable systems that shift exactly when income is recognized for various reasons, but the idea is still that all income is recognized exactly once. It is probably not necessary to pay tithing in benefits that are held in abeyance for you, as long as you pay tithing on them when they are realized. Social security, and in particular the employer’s share of social security come to mind.

    Following the same rule, life insurance proceeds should probably be tithed, but it certainly seems legitimate to exclude the previously tithed money paid in insurance premiums from the total.

    In my opinion, in accordance with the 10% total ideal, most people probably receive enough in direct and indirect benefits from the government of the sort that they would reasonably have to pay for themselves to justify paying tithing on one’s gross income.

    As far as tuition subsidies and waivers at state schools are concerned, presumably one will pay for those by other means for the rest of his life, and the tithing on that will more than account for the “10% of total” ideal. Same thing with gifts. Unless you just want to pay more tithing, or make up for tithing that the giver did not pay, paying tithing on gifts (and especially expecting people to pay tithing on gifts) is the sort of thing that strikes me as counterproductive. Unless the Lord really expects to collect twenty percent instead of ten, of course.

  35. Funny, I just had this conversation too. It seems to be a common problem for us in the church to take the personal revelation we receive (ie. that I might feel like I can make the additional sacrifice and should do it based on my inspiration to pay on my gross, or to pay on benefits received, etc.) and then try to apply that to everyone. This seems to happen with everything from talking about face cards, caffeine, to whether we should pay tithing on the $6k per year we receive per child in K12 school — someone feels that they should do something, usually based on the inspiration combined with the fact that they are uniquely blessed and perhaps the Lord is touching their hearts gently and letting them know they can do a bit more and he has blessings in store that will come to them as a result.

    And the person goes way overboard, self righteous and applies that personal revelation to everyone else. Bishops, SPs, and perhaps even at times some higher-ups don’t seem to be immune to this. The trick becomes working out what we can and should do. The way is narrow, but I believe we each have to discover our own personal plan of salvation based on the blessings the Lord has bestowed upon us.

  36. “For those who do file individual tax returns, the tax code only allows up to about $250/year in deductions for tithing paid.”

    For U.S. citizens who are poor (and even many middle class), deductions for tithing are $0. This creates a bit of an inequality–in the U.S., those who pay a full tithing, but who can’t deduct charitable donations because they don’t itemize, don’t get any tax benefits for paying tithing.

  37. John Mansfield says:

    Do you tithe income that is withheld as OASDI tax? Do you tithe the employer’s portion of that tax? Do you tithe Social Security benefits, which will exceed or be less than the taxes withheld from you for that purpose? How do tithe other annuities?

    There is something sad about judges in Israel being turned into rubber-stamping buck-passers in Israel, but it seems to be the way some like it.

    Time, that is not so. U.S. tax filers for whom itemizing deductions is not advantageous use a non-itemized standard deduction which exceeds what their itemized deductions would be. They are not missing any tax benefit by not itemizing.

  38. I just ask myself if I want net or gross blessings this month… lol

  39. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks all. You are demonstrating very well the point of this post, which is that determining tithable income is not a simple thing. I am learning from the discussion; keep it coming.

  40. John Mansfield–
    Unlike those who are wealthier, they are not gaining any tax benefit by paying tithing. So they have less of a financial incentive to pay tithing (or make any other charitable donation).

  41. Ah yes, once again heaven forbid that the church members actually think for themselves (which is a parallel to how the Pharisees were eventually able to dictate every tenet of the Law of Moses by the time the Savior’s ministry began).

    As has been stated, paying tithing is between the person and the Lord with the bishop only needing to know the answer of “Are you a full tithe payer?” during Tithing Settlement and in a temple recommend interview.

  42. Maybe instead of wondering how much tithing we should pay, we should question tithing in general. Why do we pay so much money to the Church. This money goes to “building up the kingdom” of the Church in one way or another. Much of it goes to running BYU, building lavish temples, and very large church buildings. Very little tithing funds is given to people outside the church to fight poverty or do humanitarian work in developing countries. Per capita, the LDS church is the wealthiest church in the world, but we give away comparitively little. The Church stopped reporting their tithing contribution a number of years ago during GC (maybe because it started looking exhorbitant?). Maybe.

    Why not allow people to give less than 10% to the Church, and give the rest of that 10% to a good charity instead? Jesus didn’t tithe people hand over fist. He never built lavish buildings or operated huge private schools. He told people to give their money away to the poor – not to the heirarchy of the Jewish faith. Isn’t that the point of tithing anyway – to take care of poor and needy among us? If it isn’t, then it should be.

    When I was in the bishopric, it amazed me how much tithing I collected and sent on to Church headquarters, and yet how little I collected for fast offerings. It was shocking.

  43. John Mansfield says:

    Tim, they are not gaining any benefit because they already have the benefit whether they tithe or not. As you say, that reduces financial incentive to tithe.

    Here’s one that I never encountered before this year. With the birth of another child in 2009, my federal income tax is now negative: my refund is more than all withholding through the year. If I tithe on gross income, and therefore don’t tithe tax refunds as that income was already tithed, how do I work out this situation?

    See “The ‘Procreative Mormons Suck the Nation Dry’ Tax Credit.” My prediction at the end of that one may be shaping up even more as a spoils system then I had considered last year. If the doubled Child Tax Credit expires after 2010, and the President’s proposal to almost double the Child Care Tax Credit goes through, we will see a shift of about thirty billion dollars away from the President’s political opponents (single-income, dual-parent households with three or more children) and toward his supporters (dual-income or single-parent households with one or two children).

  44. For U.S. citizens who are poor (and even many middle class), deductions for tithing are $0…those who pay a full tithing, but who can’t deduct charitable donations because they don’t itemize, don’t get any tax benefits for paying tithing.

    The same applies to poor residents of the country in question. Also, since there is no requirement for non-self-employed individuals to file tax returns at all (to say nothing of itemizing them), most of them don’t and wouldn’t know how even if they wanted to.

    The difference to the US is that not even wealthy tithing payers can expect much in the way tax benefits.

  45. We pay tithing as the amount that ends up in our bank account, which means we also pay tithing on tax refunds.
    I don’t pay tithing on gifts though, because I view tithing as paying on something I worked for. I guess, strictly, a gift is considered “increase,” but to me I just don’t feel it is necessary to tithe a gift.

    For a while, my husband and I paid on everything pre-tax, mostly because I felt guilty– like if I did otherwise, I was consciously choosing to pay the Lord less or something. I grew up thinking tithing paid post-tax was the most normal. So when I heard that some people think paying pre-tax is best I felt like, in order to be MOST righteous, shouldn’t I pay more? In the end, I realized paying more out of guilt wasn’t great, and I actually do feel comfortable paying on the money I actually have control over spending. So it really comes down to if you feel comfortable with how you pay your taxes, and I do. Others pay more, others pay less, but their tithes don’t impact me, so who cares?

    I’m trying to not be irritated by the gospel doctrine preaching of tithing breakdown mentioned in #15. Seriously? Why do some people think they have the authority to say how someone should pay tithing. Like everyone else has said, if it were that specific, the prophet would say so.

  46. twiceuponatime says:

    #31 –

    That’s a kind of jerk thing to say. I would love to take care of my kids and be responsible for them. Unfortunately, family law in the USA allows for no-fault divorce, and then says my only worth is as a source of money for my ex. You basically just mocked my pain. I don’t want to turn this into a divorce thread, though, so I’ll just leave it at that.

    As far as paying tithing and child support – well, I’ll just say that I pay tithing on the amount that is direct deposited into my bank account.

  47. In the UK we have a tax scheme called ‘Gift Aid’ which enables us to ‘recoup’ some tax that would be payable by our donation. The amount we pay is 20% less than we would have done otherwise, but the Church can recover the full amount. Most members use it as this is also paid via a monthly standing order, i.e., a set amount of money that is paid automatically into another bank account. Just to add more of a ‘European flavour’ to the ensuing discussion.

    On a separate issue, I have preferred to pay my tithing from the ‘gross’ income I receive. This is a personal rule and wouldn’t try to convince anyone to do the same thing. Tithing is between the person and the Lord.

  48. Thomas Parkin says:

    When I won the trip to Monte Carlo, and other “showcase” prizes, on the Price is Right, I paid tithing on what the Price is Right said was the value of my “showcase”. That was $27,450, so I went ahead and paid $2745. A dime for every dollar, a penny for every dime. I also paid some extra Fast Offering as an attempt to ward off any divine retribution that might have been coming my way for going to the South of France. If I had won money at the casinos, I’d not have tithed my winnings.

    You mileage may vary!

  49. #42 – I am in the same situation and what I do is pay tithing on the amount of my refund that is “negative” – i.e. that is more than I withheld.

  50. I suppose I pay tithing on something between gross and net. I gave up on crunching the numbers because it simply doesn’t seem worth the trouble. Besides, whatever 90% I decide to keep probably belongs to the Lord and I should find good things to do with it other than simply indulge myself. So why agonize over where to divide mine and His?

    Maybe this approach would ease the concerns of #41, although I’m all in when it comes to being tithed. Paradoxically, I think our willingness to tithe freely keeps us far away from priestcraft because our leaders don’t have to tell us what we want to hear to pay the bills. I imagine some might disagree? Also, the lack of clarity in the policy allows someone who shares #41’s views to adapt their contribution distribution.

  51. Kevin Barney says:

    No. 41 Josh, I believe the Church stopped giving summary financial reports as part of GC in, I want to say, the late 1950s, or something like that. The immediate reason had to do with embarrassment over deficit spending. After N. Eldon Tanner righted the ship, there was really no incentive to reboot the financial reports. (And today my guess, and it is only a guess, is that there would be a concern about people seeing really big numbers and not appreciating how much it costs to run a church of the size and scope of ours). All that being said, I personally am a fan of transparency and would favor a return to some sort of financial reporting to the members.

  52. For another perspective on the child support issue:

    I pay gross on my salary, because I see taxes as something I’m paying, it is just for convenience that they take it out of my paycheck ahead of time so I don’t have to save up and pay it. It is a bill, like any other. That way, when I get my tax return, I don’t pay tithing on that because I already paid it.

    I do not pay tithing on the child support my children get from their father. Child support is from his increase, and is based on his salary and what he makes. I am not taxed on the child support, he is. It is a bill he pays to support his children: to give them the money they need to have a place to live, clothes to wear and food to eat. It is therefore his responsibility to pay tithing on that. I consider it his money given to them, not mine. I am only the trust holder, in a sense. I take only what I need to make the mortgage payments and pay for basic necessities. The rest goes into a bank account against their futures.

    It is a common myth among support payers that child support money belongs to the other adult. It doesn’t. It belongs to the payer and the children. If the government is garnishing wages to pay that support money, it is because the person who should have been paying it failed to do so voluntarily.

    But to derail the main topic slightly, I’m speaking as one who—pregnant and with a two-year-old—had to live in poverty for several months because of the children’s father’s failure to take responsibility for his children voluntarily. If it were not for the little food storage I had and the Church and their help, my one daughter would have been malnourished in utero, the other for six months of a significant developmental stage. This is the only reason I spent the considerable time and energy necessary to petition to have his wages garnished. It had little to do with me, personally. I was fine eating nothing but potatoes and carrots for awhile. No worse than college fare, after all.

    I really wish that people who pay child support could stop seeing it as a war zone, and realize that it is for the benefit of their children. If your ex-spouse isn’t using the money responsibly, and your children are being neglected, then file for custody and get them to pay YOU. If your concerns are valid, then the court is highly likely to grant your request, since malnourishment is easy to prove.

    If your children are healthy, clothed, and happy, then please stop being bitter. It helps no one and hurts your children, making them feel like you resent their welfare.

  53. A couple of years ago I won about $1,000.00 in fantasy football. Subtract the $400.00 entrance fee and I was left with $600.00, on which my wife refused to pay tithing-she handles the money in our family. She claimed FF is gambling. FF is as much gambling as investing in the stock market. I spent a lot of time crunching data and picking which players to use every week which required a decent amount of work-at least enough to convert a WAG, i.e. a gamble, into an educated choice. Suffice to say, my wife and I have agreed to disagree, but she refuses to tithe on my FF “increase.”

    Not to threadjack about FF and gambling or from what is tithable income, but I wonder how couples resolve disputes about how to calculate tithable income. What if one spouse is from the tithe on gross school and the other is from the tithe on net school? Who wins? (The presiderer!?!?!?!? j/k.)

  54. Kevin Barney says:

    rbc, good question about how to negotiate disputes between spouses. My solution is simple; my wife handles our finances, and she pays our tithing. I leave it completely up to her.

    Have others had these kinds of differences of opinion within your marriage as to how to handle tithing? If so, how did you resolve it?

  55. The tax code is on twiceuponatime’s side on this: child support does not count as income for the non-custodial parent.

  56. re: 53. I follow the same approach. Apart from my FF winnings, I am blissfully and totally unaware of our finances.
    With respect to our family budget and finances I am at the complete mercy of my wife.

  57. I think that tithing, like Sabbath observance, is something we should keep quiet about lest we either make others feel guilty or ourselves more righteous.

  58. I make a point to deduct the cost of my dish network from my tithing since I watch conference twice a year. I also deduct the cost of my SUV since I transport my kids to church. My clothing are also deducted since I have to wear something to church. And I deduct the cost of my food and shelter since they help to keep me breathing and alive so that I can go to church. And whenever I go out to eat, I am sure to say a prayer, so I deduct that cost as well.

  59. John Mansfield says:

    “That’s between us and the Lord” can come across a lot like “That’s not pertinent to our salvation.” Many have expressed the idea as a reasonable caveat to move discussion along. In places, though, it seems like a vapid, sanctimonious attempt to shut everyone up.

  60. I do think the church should be much more open about their finances. In my opinion the church should publish a P&L statement and balance sheet twice a year at conference time.

    This money is from the members, but the members do not see how and when it is spent.

  61. Kristine—
    “Child support is not considered taxable income. That means, the parent who receives child support payments does not have to claim that money on their federal income tax return. The parent who pays child support may not deduct any amount of child support paid from his or her taxable income.”
    alllaw.com

    In other words, from what I understand, taxes on child support are paid by the one who makes the money: the payer, or noncustodial parent.

    And I don’t think there is anything wrong with discussing principles of tithing support and why they pay it the way they do, as long as no one tries to tell someone else their way is the One Right Way, and they are sinning by not doing it the same way.

    I, for one, appreciate hearing others’ points of view from time to time so I can reevaluate how I pay.

  62. And my comment got filtered, apparently.

  63. Is it just me, or is #53 hilarious?

    Can we not tithe our ill-gotten gains? You know, money made from gambling, insider trading, insurance fraud, etc?

  64. I think Kevin’s post has succeeded in its intent–at least as I perceive it. It’s tough to expressly codify a deeply spiritual law. There are all sorts of issues that come up, one that comes immediately to mind in my experience are individuals in part-member families that want to pay tithing on the income of their working spouse. In a ward where I conducted TR interviews, this issue came up frequently and the resolution was invariably that the individual would generate their own solution. I get really uncomfortable when I hear things like “x money is definitely not tithable income” or, conversely “there is no justification not to pay tithing on x income.” As the answer to that question may widely vary from member to member.

  65. By the way rbc, that wasn’t a dig at you. My stock market “investments” don’t seem to be any different than your FF. Especially since the premise that “over the long term, the stock market goes up” seems a bit shaky these days.

  66. When I was in the bishopric, it amazed me how much tithing I collected and sent on to Church headquarters, and yet how little I collected for fast offerings. It was shocking.

    I have no idea why that should be shocking. If 10% of my income were the cost of two meals (or even if I doubled or tripled or quadrupled or quintupled the minimum requested offering), I’d be earning only enough to support myself for three or four days during any month. Of course tithing is going to vastly outstrip fast offerings! Yes, I and most others could and should donate more to fast offerings, but comparing tithing figures to fast offering figures and being shocked thereby is ridiculous.

  67. #25: “Increase” was defined in a 1970 letter from the first presidency to mean “income” — that’s why people speak of paychecks when they speak of tithing, I suspect.

    As far as self-employed, “income” is defined as Revenue less Costs. Tithing Revenue (e.g., gross receipts) makes no sense at all.

    When I lived overseas with my company, I determined I would tithe cash payments to me and not tithe “in kind” benefits (like the rent of my house that I did not pay myself). I happened to have a stake president who’d also been overseas with the same company and he agreed that he had taken a similar approach. We didn’t discuss details; I wasn’t really seeking his permisson, but rather his perspective as someone who had been through a similar experience.

    My experience when living in the US is to tithe my gross, less contributions to my 401K, as I’ll tithe those when I withdraw them in retirement. I suspect I’ll “overpay” when the time comes, because I tithe my Roth IRA contributions, and I’ll probably not be smart enough to figure out the “net” when withdrawl time comes. I suppose I can assume the Lord might overbless me, too…(since he probably already has).

    Sorry about the prescriptive tithing forumlas that get discussed in GD classes. I suppose some snarky class member could say, “Bishop, does the General Handbook have any advice on this matter?”

    #53: My wife and I write separate tithing checks — me for my earnings and she for hers. The earnings go into our common bank account, but I assume she’s ok with her tithing calculation, and she knows I’m ok with mine. At tithing settlement, we “jointly” declare our tithing status.

  68. In my own experience “vapid, sanctimonious attempts to shut people up” work pretty well in a real life church setting, but not so well in the more free flowing discussions on the intertubes. I wish it were different and people felt more confident in publicly expressing different views/theories about what is tithable income, but IRL those discussions and questions are often-if not always-short circuited by the vapid and sanctimonious members preaching complete fidelity to a poorly thought out rationale or expressed in simple, silly statements like “blessings on gross or net.” Can you imagine a conversation like this thread going on in any gospel doctrine class, relief society class or priesthood lesson/discussion, my own contribution re: FF notwithstanding?

  69. Ron Madson says:

    #38, Kevin, these posts have demonstrated that “tithing is not a simple thing”…..you got that right

    but what some see as vigilant/detailed analysis in order to be perfect in the law I see as hitting the gold vein of collective and individual NEUROSIS.

    I agree with Dave P (#40)

    But this is entertaining to say the least…like watching lab rats anxiously trying to figure which way to turn (at every turn) to get the golden cheese at the end of of maze…

  70. #58,
    I believe this approach has been successful for others, as well.

  71. twiceuponatime says:

    #52 – “f the government is garnishing wages to pay that support money, it is because the person who should have been paying it failed to do so voluntarily.”

    False, false, and false. In my case, it was automatic, and there was nothing I could do about it. I would pay on time every month on my own, but I had no choice. The way it works in this state is that as soon as the divorce is finalized, your paycheck starts getting garnished.

    Your call to action rings hollow because of that. And considering the huge anti-male bias in family law, it is a huge. huge hurdle to try to get custody if you feel your ex is not spending the money on the kids correctly.

    Sorry for the threadjack, but SilverRain’s implied and false accusation that people like me were failing to pay their child support and thus the government had to step in had to be answered.

  72. “When I was in the bishopric, it amazed me how much tithing I collected and sent on to Church headquarters, and yet how little I collected for fast offerings. It was shocking.”

    Can I ask a question? I’m not sure how offerings work. Tithing goes on to Church headquarters and then that ward gets back what it needs in order to operate, right? How do fast offerings work? Does the ward keep what they receive and then pay out of those funds to those in need and whatever is left over goes to the stake? Or does it all go back to the headquarters like tithing?

    This discussion has made me think. My husband is a navy officer and we live on a base in Southern California so we get a pretty significant housing allowance on paper, but that money goes directly to the housing office. He thinks we should pay tithing on our gross, so we are paying quite a bit more in tithing than we did when we lived in other areas and our housing allowance was much lower. Which is fine, except now we can’t afford to pay as much in offerings and humanitarian aid because while our tithing went up significantly, our take home pay didn’t increase at all. So say, if we had been paying $80 for tithing and $20 for fast, now we are paying $90 for tithing and $10 for fast.

    So I’m just wondering, if we paid tithing on our net and then took the difference between net and gross and paid that as fast offerings, would that have a more meaningful impact on our ward, or would it not make a real difference? Because if all of the fast offerings go to the church headquarters as well and then they give back what is needed, then it seems like it wouldn’t really matter. But if a larger fast offering would be more beneficial to our ward than a larger tithe, then maybe it would be better for us to calculate it differently and keep that extra $10 as fast offering. Does anyone know how fast offerings work?

  73. As far as which spouse decides whether to pay tithing on net or gross:
    Person who makes the majority of the money: me.
    Person who makes sure all the bills are paid every month: me.
    Person who decides whether to pay tithing on net or gross: the wife.

    This should be one of those topics that couples should discuss before marriage. I’m fine with my wife’s decision, but I’d do it differently if I were single. Some battles aren’t worth fighting.

    I like the idea of each spouse paying tithing on his/her earnings individually, but I’m not sure that would be fair if only one spouse is bringing in an income.

  74. I generally pay tithing on the gross amount of my paycheck minus the funds that go into my various retirement accounts (IRA’s and 401K’s). I figure that I haven’t actually received that money yet, nor do I know how much it is going to be when I do get it. I like a good math problem as much as the next guy but I do not want to spend my retiring years trying to figure out how much money I lost and received on the whims of the market so I can pay tithing on the increases that may have happened. I am not sure if it is right or not , but it works for me – at least for today.

  75. Sorry, cut of my last line. My plan is to pay tithing on the monthly retirement check when I get it – simplier that way

  76. #71 twiceuponatime—I am aware that all situations are different, so I’m not going to comment on your situation. For me, it was not automatic. I had to spend considerable effort to get the money I needed to feed my children. That is what I have to go from. In states other than Utah, it may be different.

    I do get tired of hearing people (not just men) complain about paying child support. And I don’t know you at all, so I admit I may be wrong about this, but the fact that you consider it HER money that SHE can do with as she pleases indicates to me that either you have a skewed perception of what child support is, or you divorced an evil, selfish woman who cares about nothing but herself. Another thing that may or may not indicate a problem in perception is that you complain of being forced to pay something and having “nothing [you] could do about it.” If you were paying voluntarily, it seems on the surface that you wouldn’t care whether or not it was being taken out of your paycheck. If anything, it seems you should be grateful for not having to worry about it.

    If it was voluntary. (And I admit, I only have what you write here to go on. You’re probably nothing at all like what you sound like here.)

    I also get tired of hearing about the so-called anti-male bias. In my experience and many others, the courts are strongly skewed towards abusers in an attempt to overcorrect for that mostly mythical bias. Because abusers tend to be male, there actually ends up being a strong male bias in those relatively few cases where the men express an interest in gaining custody.

    And for what it’s worth, I think my children’s father believes to this day that he always paid everything on time. You would likely get a very different rendition of the story from him.

    But of course, none of that addresses the applicable part of main point of the post: whose money it ultimately is, and who pays tithing on it.

  77. To add another dimension to the puzzle, how do part member families tithe the spoils?

  78. John Mansfield says:

    Tithing retirement funds when they are withdrawn makes sense, but I worry a little about it conflicting with the command to tithe our increase annually. Keeping track of such things on an annual basis would be quite a headache. I also worry a little about the possibility of dealing with tithing the way clever, rich people do with taxes, always finding a way that my increase somehow doesn’t count.

  79. For U.S. citizens who are poor (and even many middle class), deductions for tithing are $0…those who pay a full tithing, but who can’t deduct charitable donations because they don’t itemize, don’t get any tax benefits for paying tithing.

    On a marginal basis this is true, but the only reason why this is the case is the existence of the standard deduction and the earned income credit. The problem is simple to fix: get rid of both and have everyone itemize. Then every additional dollar of tithing will qualify for the charitable deduction, no matter who the payer is.

    Of course to be fair, either the mortgage interest deduction should also be eliminated or renters allowed to deduct some portion of housing costs, etc. It is also worth mentioning that the charitable deduction and other similar deductions phase out / go away at high income levels, due to the alternative minimum tax, etc.

  80. I agree, John.

    It seems to me that where tithing is concerned, if you are trying to figure out ways NOT to pay, there is a problem. If you are trying to figure out what TO pay, then discussing the matter is fine.

  81. Tithing retirement funds when they are withdrawn makes sense, but I worry a little about it conflicting with the command to tithe our increase annually

    One of the serious practical problems about that ideal is accounting for unrealized gains. If the stock market is doing unusually well, in principle you may have made a lot of money on paper (in the sense of your net worth going up) only to have much of it lost later when the market goes down.

    A simpler system that seems faithful to the ideal of annual increase might be to pay tithing on all retirement contributions when they are made, and then start to pay tithing on withdrawals when they exceed the amount of contributions. That takes a little paper work of course, unless you can afford to pay tithing on your contributions twice.

  82. Well, SilverRain, I think that’s about all that needs to be said. 90% of your comment #76, I could agree with. However, I’m going to say that your apparently terrible situation may color your perceptions and cause you to get a little too heated in your rhetoric/accusations (of course, I am hardly immune, as I tend to get way too defensive when people constantly imply divorced men are abusive deadbeats).

    Back to tithing -

  83. 78 – John: Re: retirement accounts. Again, it depends on how we define “increase”. The value of the account may increase over time, but it may (as we’ve recently seen) also decrease. For me (and only me — I can’t speak for anyone else), those “paper” increases are not part of my income until I withdraw them. Similarly, I would not think of tithing the increased equity in my home (if there were any…) until I sold it.

    #77 — Part member family queston. I suppose the member in the family would need to sort out what income is his or hers. I’m aware of two cases that were very different: in one, a sister who was not the breadwinner paid tithing on any income that was specifically hers, but not on her husband’s income. She did this with his agreement. In another case in which a husband was the member and the sole breadwinner calculated what his share of the income would be if he and his wife divorced, and he tithed his “share” only. The latter was a rather complicated calculation, but he felt it necessary because his wife was so opposed to his contributing at all, and this way he could placate her.

  84. Your comment #82 I can completely agree with, even and perhaps especially regarding my hypersensitivity in such matters. Though I don’t consider my situation terrible. I was actually quite lucky and blessed compared to most women in similar circumstances. Perhaps that is why I’m more sensitive. I know it can (and maybe will) get worse. That’s a reality I so far have to live with every day.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t consider all or even most divorced men abusive deadbeats. I don’t think divorce alone sets up the red flags for me, but certain phrases and attitudes do. And I’ve seen my share of abusive and selfish women, too.

  85. jenna (72)

    Technically (in the United States, but perhaps with some few exceptions), all donations made to the Church are transferred to Salt Lake except for those donations to Ward Missionary and contributions to Other. So in a literal sense, very little of the collected money stays in the ward’s actual bank account.

    However, with Fast Offering, the ward has a sort of “first dibs” on how the money is used. Bishops are charged to seek out the poor and provide appropriate assistance when possible and as much as needed. If there is a surplus of funds at the end of the year, the stake will collect it to bring overspent wards up to balance. If the stake has a surplus, the Church (or maybe the Area) collects it, and it goes off into the nebulous pool.

    Bishops are encouraged to spend the fast offering funds wisely and judiciously. If the amount collected in their ward is not sufficient for their needs, they usually need to explain why to the Stake President. I have yet to see a bishop throw money around so casually that the stake president felt any need to reprimand the bishop.

    So the ultimate answer to your question is that the Church collects all the fast offering money AND it benefits the ward first. On the Church’s end, I suspect a lot of it is accounting games.

  86. As I understand it, the Church can and does transfer money from tithing to fast offering funds (at the general level) if necessary to meet fast offering expenditures. I also wouldn’t make too much of fast offering contributions being relatively low compared to tithing contributions. Ten percent of income is already a high standard to meet, and anyone who pays a full tithing should be commended even if they only pay a token amount in fast offerings and other contributions.

  87. “To add another dimension to the puzzle, how do part member families tithe the spoils?”

    No tithing on her income, I pay 10% of net on mine. She handles all of the finances, and hands me a cheque to sign every month to take to church. She makes the odd comment, but we had discussed tithing prior to getting married and she knew I was committed to paying it.

    Her income usually keeps the vacation fund full, so it creates a moral hazard where I secretly hope she never joins the church. 10% of her income might mean choosing between a 4.5 star and 3 star hotel in Mexico, and that could cause more stress on our marriage than it could withstand.

  88. Thanks Kevin. Interesting discussion. I am assuming that you also believe the young man speaking was “wrong” and that both he and the priesthood leader were “wrong” for trying to make a definative pronouncement (but not necessarily “wrong” because of their respective views).

    You have pointed out that the more one gets into the thicket the more complicated these questions are. Its true that at some point members have to make a practical decision. But I disagree that those who allegedly “obsess” are not thinking seriously about it.

    I have always paid tithing on gross and on any gifts that are similar to cash or that can be converted to cash. So yes to birthday gift certificates from Grandma but no to a pair of pants from Grandma. (But yes to the money from the pair of pants if I take them in with the receipt and get cash back). If I sell a car for $500.00 that I bought for $600.00 then a pay no tithing. If its the other way around, I pay for the “increase” or profit. I guess I could have deducted repair expenses but rather than getting into the “obsessing” I just try to err on the side of the Lord. I have actually been paying tithing on part of my tax returns the past couple of years because they have exceeded the amount of tax income I paid with various deductions, etc. I considered that an increase and basically a payment from the Government to me.

    I don’t feel pompous about tithing. I would encourage my children to pay the gross and would explain my reasoning if they asked but I would not presume to “counsel” others on the subject unless they asked (such as a discussion like this thread).

  89. #68 RBC: I am with you on this until you accuse those folks who say “blessings on gross or net” of being silly and/or a part of the sanctimonious cabal who is cutting off the discussion. I agree that we ought to hear a lot of voices on this topic, and that would include those who feel that paying on gross is a part of not withholding one’s increase from God a la Malachi Chapter 3. I suppose anyone who ridicules others on this topic is acting wrongly, but I don’t think we need to associate such people with a certain viewpoint on the topic itself. I feel I have been blessed for paying on my gross and wouldn’t feel right doing it any other way. I have no negative feelings toward anyone else and wouldn’t presume the netters are wrong.

  90. I’ve read probably a thousand posts about tithing in part-member families. It varies. The hardest to negotiate are homemaker believer wives and ex-Mormon husbands. Some (not all) ex-Mormons are pretty adamant about not giving any money to the church. One argument is that it’s not “his” money, but “their” money, and she should be allowed to lay a claim to some to tithe. The counter-argument is that if she doesn’t have a claim to some of the money to buy a sports car, why should she have a similar claim to give to the church?

    It’s easier for part-member families where both are employed – each tithes on his/her portion of the income. The above arguments do still come into play sometimes, but not as often.

  91. Crick #89, I would say that the young man may not have been right, but he was not wrong. The stake dude, however, most surely was wrong.

  92. When my husband passed away, I asked my branch president if i should pay tithing on the life insurance. I appreciated his response – “No. No amount of money is an increase in comparison to this loss.” Pretty clear for me.

  93. A classic from the archives. BYU President Ernest L. Wilkinson diaries:

    May 11, 1961, conversation with [First Presidency Member] Henry D. Moyle about the need to provide authoritative definition of what constituted full tithing, particularly that it should be paid before the payment taxes. Moyle agreed, but said as long as President McKay and President Clark were in the First Presidency there was no chance to get any authoritative interpretation. Moyle informed me also that President Richards, and he thought Bishop [Thorpe] Isaacson, only paid their tithing after the deduction of taxes and that there was not a chance at the present time to change that situation.”

  94. Bruce Rogers says:

    #51. The last financial report that gave actual figures was in general conference of 1957. For awhile, it was reported in news articles and some books, but today it is out-of-date. A few years ago, one of the newsmagazines did a study on the Church. They wrote that since they received no monetary information directly from the Church, they made estimates.

  95. Kevin Barney says:

    Crick, yes, technically the young man was not incorrect in his statement that it is acceptable to pay one’s tithing on net income (it is), but he was probably “wrong” for making such a public statement about proper tithing practice at all. But he was a young man and inexperienced in the Church and I thought deserving of a fair amount of slack. The SP counselor could have gently corrected him by explaining that the Church takes no position on how one calculates tithing, and that that is a matter between you and the Lord. But he was an experienced and knowledgeable member of the Church, and to forcefully assert that tithing *must* be paid on gross income was the far greater error to my perception. He should have known better, and not only was he wrong on the substance, but he embarrassed that young man needlessly and wrongly.

  96. I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but my favorite tithing story is from my dad’s time in Vienna in the year after World War 2 ended. The Mormon GIs had a separate Sunday School class, since none of them spoke German well enough to participate in the class with the Viennese members. One day the class broke up (in laughter, not disagreement) on the question whether they should pay tithing on their black market income.

  97. Income tax, health insurance, alimony, child support, etc. are financial obligations (bills) the same as a mortgage or car insurance. Why would it be any more acceptable not to pay tithing on the money that pays for these than on any of our other living expenses? If we limit what we call our “increase” to what’s left over after we pay our bills, most of us don’t have much at all! :) I don’t believe that’s the way it’s meant to be. I also don’t think many would be willing to keep track to make sure they don’t receive more from Social Security or a 401k than they put into it either, in order to pay on that literal “increase.” It’s logical to pay on the gross amount.

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