New York, NY
Does one have to take ma’aser before they invest? Or do they take ma’aser on the earnings? Do they have to take it from investment earnings, is this only when they take money out their retirement account? Is ma’aser taken from Gross income or Adjusted gross income?
According to Rav Moshe, one takes ma’aser on take-home pay, not gross income, since this is effectively what the person is actually earning. Iggrot Moshe YD 1:143 – אבל המסים של האינקאם טעקס שזה הוא מס מהריוח אין צריך לעשר עליהם משום דנחשב כלא הרויח זה כלל. So, it is adjusted gross income. There are many discussions in the poskim regarding pre- or post-expenses. See, for example, Yechaveh Da’at 3:76, Minchat Yitzchak 5:34, Tzitz Eliezer 10:6. As to the question of before they invest – you do have to take ma’aser from your investment earnings. Let’s assume that you will earn 100% over 5 years, and then withdraw it all. And you have $200 to invest. So, if you take it off before, you have $180 to invest, after 5 years it is $360, you’ve earned $180 dollars, so you take another $18 off. Let’s say you take it off after. You have $200 to invest, you earn $200, you take out $400, and now you give $40. So I see how waiting until later actually means that there is more that goes to ma’aser. However, it is also possible that the amount will go down, and there is a broad consensus in the poskim that ma’aser has to be given annually, at least counting from Rosh HaShanah to the next Rosh HaShanah, based on the pasuk (Devarim 14:22) עשר תעשר את כל תבואת זרעך היצא השדה שנה שנה. So, I would say, give now. Even if you plan to take out the money before the year is up, you may lose some of it, and the chiyuv ma’aser starts now with the money you earned.
So if you give ma’aser on money that you earn and then invest it do you pay ma’aser in the growth also? It sounds like from what you said that it does not matter if there are realized gains or not, you have to give ma’aser on the growth, is this correct? Or you only give it once you’ve actually sold the investment?
Only once you’ve sold the investment. Consider the stock like a commodity you’ve invested in. The price of oranges goes up and down but you don’t make your money until you’ve sold the oranges.