Dear Rabbi Simon,
As your responses are always so helpful I hope you don’t mind if I ask another question regarding ma’aser. I had always thought that one was obligated to take 10% from one’s salary and that is the contribution of ma’aser to make. e.g. say from the £1000 that entered your bank account each month, it would be £100. I read recently regarding deducting expenses-rent, travel to work etc from one’s income and then what is left is the amount to take the 10% from. Please could you clarify this for me as would be really helpful to know which is correct.
Many thanks in advance.
TY for your Q.
The preferred and recommended approach is to calculate 10% of one’s actual net salary, ie after taxes, but before everyday living expenses. Nevertheless, there is a basis to reckon the 10% ma’aser obligation only from one’s discretionary, disposable income. This would exclude rent (or mortgage), utilities, work-related costs (such as transportation), and basic food expenses. The weakness in this approach, however, is that one may end up attributing so much of his or her income to “essential living expenses” that there is not much left from which to dedicate 10% to tzedakah.
So the choice is yours.
IMO if possible one should try to limit his/her reliance on this leniency, but if your circumstances/finances demand, you may fall back on this as necessary. I hope this somewhat equivocal answer is nonetheless helpful.
Rabbi Rashi Simon