NPR's blogger Robert Smith tells of what the IRS could learn from Mormons and their belief in paying tithing, or 10 percent of their income, to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Smith cited a study by Gordon Dahl, an economist at the University of California, who is Mormon.
Dahl and Smith both questioned the meaning of income, and said many people have differing opinions on what this word actually means.
"As anyone who has ever done their taxes knows, figuring out what counts as income is harder than it sounds. The IRS has hundreds of pages of rules about these things, but Dahl wanted to know how people think about money when only God is watching. He thought the IRS could actually learn from how Mormons make these decisions," Smith wrote.
Smith cited answers from the study to hypothetical questions about tithing habits of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their definition of income.
"Suppose your parents gave you $500 for Christmas," Dahl asked respondents. "Would you pay tithing on that money?"
"That was a resounding yes among Mormons. Gifts of cash are definitely considered income," Smith reported.
But more diverse answers arose when respondents were asked if income was specified before or after taxes and whether or not tithing was to be paid on the cash equivalent of non-monetary gifts.
"I asked a Mormon bishop in Salt Lake City if a few more rules defining income might make tithing easier on Mormons or bring in more money for the church. He said all this soul-searching about what you owe God is kind of the point," Smith concluded.
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