Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson recently proposed a tax system “based on tithing, because I think God is a pretty fair guy.” The basic idea is that people would pay a set percent of their income in taxes, and most of the federal tax code’s current deductions and loopholes would be closed. Carson suggests that such a system is inherently fair and simple, and he’s tasked Thomas Rustici, an economics professor at George Mason University, with working out the details. During Wednesday night’s debate among the Republican primary candidates in Boulder, Colorado, Carson noted that his ideal rate might not be the biblically mandated 10 percent, but something closer to 15 percent.
Looking to the Bible for guidance on tax policy raises a host of questions, not the least of which is whether we should be turning to an ancient document to design a secular tax system for our modern world. For the sake of argument, however, let’s accept that we should look to the Bible. That leaves us with the more concrete questions of just what the Bible says about tax fairness and tithing, and whether a tax system based on tithing would be the panacea that Carson suggests. The answer is almost certainly no.