Should I Tithe off My Tax Refund?
I am often asked this question as I travel and teach, and I appreciate the heart through which this question is generally asked.
What is a tax refund? The answer is in the question— a refund. A refund of what? A portion of the taxes you overpaid to the IRS. When we pay more taxes than we owe, as calculated on our tax return, the IRS sends that portion of money back to us.
When this happens by surprise, we are thrilled; it’s like an unexpected bonus! Yet when this occurs year after year, it’s an indication that there is a problem. How could receiving money back from the IRS be a problem? Let me frame it in the form of a question for you: would you knowingly overpay for a flat-screen television by $300, only to wait to get your money back 15 months later? I guarantee you’d want your money now.
If we are routinely receiving a refund, that means we are knowingly over-paying the IRS and letting them hold our money all year, only to get it back sometime the next year. I’m confident you and I have better purposes for our money throughout the year than letting the IRS hold it.
If this describes your typical tax filing scenario, you can talk with your tax professional about adjusting your W-4 and reducing the amount of taxes you are paying during the year which puts that money back in your pockets for your use and not the government’s.
Now, how about that tithe for those who do receive a refund? Some people argue that they have already tithed off that income. I would look to Scripture, specifically these two passages:
And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. 18 But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 8:17-18
Remember, all that we have is from the Lord, and it is He who provided the job, your ability to work, the income, and the tax refund for you.
Honour the Lord with thy substance, And with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, And thy presses shall burst out with new wine. Proverbs 3:9-10
When a tax refund is received, did you increase? Do you have more substance? Anything good can still be done with a legalistic heart or attitude, but rather than looking at having to tithe, we can view this tax refund as a blessing from the Lord. Honor Him with this substance and watch Him bless and provide according to His promise, “So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, And thy presses shall burst out with new wine.”
When we are mindful of the purpose of the tithe, it will encourage us to live our lives trusting in the One who gave us life: “…that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always.” Deut. 14:23
God’s will has always been that His children depend completely upon Him and not themselves or their own abilities. What other area of our lives demonstrates our dependence on Him more than our finances? We willingly return to God what is His, then trust Him to provide for us with the finances that remain.
God will not and cannot run out of resources. And He always does what He says He will do. What a joy to take Him at His Word, honor Him with the tithe, and watch Him provide for us in ways that go beyond our own understanding – that’s how He works!