Tax Return Tithing

To those of you well-situated enough that you actually pay taxes, congratulations!  Good job working hard for your money, and sorry about what’s going to happen to you in April.

To those of us, however, who fall into the tax bracket known as “pitiful slobs,” this is the most wonderful time of year.  It’s the time of year when daddies are allowed to buy socks that don’t have holes in them, and frugal moms splurge on extravagant items like car registrations and non-irregular ketchup.  Yes yes, it’s tax return time!

Can o’ worms disclaimers:

1.  Tithing is a fabulous and praiseworthy practice, and something to be striven for, but it is not possible for all families.  Giving generously and significantly from what you have is required by the Church; giving ten percent is not.  (See CCC #2043)

2.  Taxes don’t count as charity, even if some of your tax money does go toward supporting some of those icky poor people (yes, I have heard otherwise sane Catholics argue this line).  Taxes are for Caesar, charitable donations are for God, and Catholics are supposed to pay both.

3.  Why, yes, America is being ruined by irresponsible people like us who go on and have forty-seven children that we can’t even afford to outfit in Brooks Brothers suits with a Rush Limbaugh logo embroidered on the lapel.  We should pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, quit whining, and take the triple extra overtime shift in the coal mine so we will have something to leave to the Pat Buchanan Young Monsters Brigade in our will.

4.  I’m still spending part of our tax return on beer, and you can’t stop me.  Or even make me feel bad about it.

Okay, with that out of the way:  what we have decided is that, if we can’t manage to tithe every month, we can at least tithe from windfalls—and the greatest of these is our annual tax refund.

We generally donate a medium amount to the local crisis pregnancy center, and a large amount to Save a Family Plan.  This is our favorite charity because it has an extremely low overhead, with no monkey business, and it gets results.  This is not heavy-handed, bureaucratic, temporary-shower-of-gold-style charity:  it’s intensely local and very personal.  And it’s run by nuns, so you’re not going to end up accidentally funding some hideous sterilization program, as you might with UNICEF or United Way.

Here’s how it works:  in the Family Deveopment Program, your family helps a family in India with “immediate needs such as food, clothing, medicine or education”; and then the organization “encourages each family assisted to become self-reliant and productive within the context of their local economy.”  From the website:

purpose of assistance

Provide basic human needs (food, medicine, shelter)
Cover some of the educational costs of children so they can attend school
Offer skills development opportunities for parents
Enhance employability through training
Provide means for these families to own livestock to have an improved diet and to give them an asset
Assist families in financing entrepreneurial initiatives such as small retail stores called petty shops, bicycle repair centres, teashops, fishing businesses, etc.

how it helps poor families

Reduces their indebtedness
Improves their living conditions
Reduces the burden on single parents such as widows and widowers as well as abandoned women
Augments present income for an immediate improvement in their standard of living
Provides avenues for subsidies and bank loans that would not normally be available to the poor
Provides a built-in support system with their local Sangham

You commit to supporting the family for a certain number of years, and will receive a photo, and letters from the family if you wish (and you may write back, too).  A $240 annual donation ($20 a month) will send a family on its way toward self-reliance within six years.  Save a Family Plan has helped more than 50,000 to become self-sufficient!


Lent is coming!  An excellent time of year to think about lightening that pesky load in your wallet.  I heartily recommend Save a Family Plan, but there are other fine homes for your money, as well.  So, what’s your favorite charity, and why?