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What is the minimum amount one must give to charity?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Mitzvot » Charity | Subscribe | What is RSS?


1. Ten percent of a person's income must be given to charitable causes. A generous person (who can afford it...) can give away up to 20%. [See also Tanya, Igeret HaTeshuvah, chapter 3.]

2. This ten percent is calculated after deducting business expenses and income tax from the total income. Household expenses, sales tax and property tax cannot be deducted.1

3. It is permitted to give this charity to non-Jewish charitable causes.

Ed. note: Please also read, 'What is maaser?'


  • 1. See Editor's Comment on Miriam's User Comment beneath article.


Please email me when new comments are posted (you must be  logged in).



Posted by: Miriam, Leeds, UK on Dec 04, 2004

OK, this 10%. I pay Income Tax, National Insurance, Pension and Union dues and then I get what's left. Can I do 10% of the net, or is it more complicated?

Editor's Comment

More complicated... What did you expect?!

However, as it happens, all the particular expenses you mention are deductible, and you give ten percent of what you have left.


Posted by: Anonymous, Reynoldsburg, OH, USA on Apr 24, 2005

In reference to net income:

Please let me know if I have this correct.

Net income is your increase. Being in debt (having a net loss) is decrease. Net income is the sum remaining after all expenses have been met or deducted; synonymous with net earnings or net profit-gross income less expenses incurred to produce gross income (Barron’s Dictionary of Finance and Investment Terms).

Expenses incurred to produce gross income are the following:

Business Expenses (if you own a business),


Living Expenses: rent, food, clothes, utilities, transportation, car, school and day care

To simplify, expenses incurred to produce gross income is any expenses that is necessary to pay so that you can continue to produce gross income. Most people generate gross income by receiving a paycheck from their employer. To continue to go to work, they have to pay the above living expenses. It is right to deduct the above living expenses to get net income.

Editor's Comment

It seems that the definition which Halachah provides is at odds with the one offered by Barron's... Since giving charity is halachah (and definitely is not business advice...), we will follow halachah's definition.


Posted by: Anonymous, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil on Mar 20, 2006

What´s the diference between tzedakah anda maasser? If I give 10% of my income, am I giving Tzedakah or maaser?

thank You

Editor's Comment

"Tzedakah" means charity (or righteousness... it's the *right* thing to do, not just a favor for the pauper). "Maaser" means a tenth. Thus we give "maaser" of our earnings to "tzedakah".


Posted by: Anonymous on Nov 08, 2006

can you give to research for eg, diabete's research or must it be to the poor?


Editor's Comment

Charity can be given to any worthy cause, if it is sincerely needed. Diabetes research certainly sounds like a life-saving cause.