EZ-Maaser


The EZ-Maaser mobile app is the easiest way to keep track of your maaser (or chomesh) giving!

Introduction

It is a widely accepted practice among observant Jews to donate to tzedaka (charity) 10% (or 20%) of all their income/profit. This is called giving "maaser" or "meiser" ("tithe" in English), based on the Hebrew root for 10 or 1/10 ("chomesh" is based on the root of 5 or 1/5).

Besides the tremendous chesed (lovingkindness) involved in giving so much tzedaka, Hashem (G-d) promises that one who gives maaser will be rewarded with financial wealth in this world (in addition to the eternal reward one receives in the Next World).

EZ-Maaser is an app that makes it very easy and convenient to track your income, donations and relevant expenses, so that you can make sure you are consistently giving exactly 10% (or 20%) of your income/profit to tzedaka.

About Giving Maaser

Rabbinic authorities disagree whether giving maaser (10%) of one's monetary earnings to charity is a Torah obligation (as is giving 10% of one's harvested produce), a Rabbinic obligation (based on the Torah maaser law of produce) or a worthy custom that has been widely accepted by the Jewish nation over the generations. Most authorities hold the third opinion: that it is a good and important practice, but not an obligation. (Note that it is a Torah obligation incumbent on all, even a destitute person, to give at least a little tzedaka to the poor every year.)

In any case, all agree that giving maaser is a very praiseworthy practice, with powerful benefits, both in this world and the Next World. The Torah promises explicitly that one who gives maaser will become financially wealthy: "give maaser in order that you shall become wealthy" is the homiletical explanation of the words, "you shall surely tithe" in Devarim (Deuteronomy) 14:22.

The Chafetz Chaim (in Ahavat Chesed) quotes from Sefer Hakarnayim that the heavens are sustained in the merit of maaser, and they shower blessing onto one who donates one tenth of his income.

And, while it is generally prohibited to "test" Hashem by performing a mitzvah (commandment) to await the reward (see Devarim 6:16), testing whether Hashem will give one wealth (financial wealth, specifically) in reward for giving maaser is permitted. (See Malachi 3:10, Talmud Bavli Taanit 8:, and Ahavat Chesed 2:2:7.)

The earliest sources for giving 10% of one's profits to charity are in Bereshit (Genesis): Avraham Avinu (Abraham) donates 10% of the spoils of war (Bereshit 14:20), while Yaakov Avinu (Jacob) declares: "And all that You will give me, I shall surely tithe for You." (Bereshit 28:22). Following this, we see that Yaakov became extremely wealthy: "And the man became exceedingly prosperous, and came to own large flocks, etc." (Bereshit 30:43).

Key Guidelines for Giving Maaser

Note: The following brief overview of the halachot (laws) of giving maaser are not necessarily universally accepted by all halachic (Jewish legal) authorities; readers are encouraged to consult their own rabbinic authority if any questions arise.

  • Exactly 10%: One should be careful to separate precisely 10% of one's net income and give it to worthy beneficiaries. Even if one chooses to give more than 10% (for example, to give chomesh, as mentioned in the next section), one should state that exactly 10% is being given as maaser and then give the rest as additional charity (in the case of chomesh, as a second maaser). This is because there are deep spiritual concepts underlying the exact separation of 10%.
  • All income and profits: One should give maaser on all net earnings, income and other forms of realized profit. This includes gains, such as monetary gifts, inheritance (even if the person who bequeathed the inheritance already gave maaser on this money), securities sold at a profit, (permitted) interest, monetary lotteries/raffles, and found money.
  • Deductible expenses: One should give maaser on the net income (i.e., actual realized profit), not the gross income/earnings. This means that all expenses directly incurred to generate the income should be deducted from the gross earnings amount in order to calculate 10% of the net income/profit. According to most authorities, valid deductions include direct work-related expenditures, such as transportation to/from work, necessary clothes or tools or other items purchased for work, babysitting expenses so that one can go to work, direct business costs (e.g., office utility bills, employee wages, insurance), cost of goods/securities, and any other expenses necessary to generate the income. Accordingly, all income taxes and capital gains taxes should also be deducted from income before calculating the 10%.
  • Non-deductible expenses: According to most authorities, most personal, household and living expenses should not be deducted from the gross income before calculating maaser. This includes food, household items, sales tax paid on personal purchases, supporting/educating one's non-adult children, etc. In some cases, one may deduct certain types of non-obligatory mitzvah- or chinuch-related expenses (such as additional expenses in these areas beyond the necessary minimum).
  • Timing: Some authorities say that one should pay all maaser/chomesh owed by Rosh Hashana of every year, at the latest, while others say that one may choose any date in the year as an annual payment deadline (e.g., December 31). Many people who give maaser/chomesh do so throughout the year, and keep a rolling record of how much they owe (or have prepaid).
  • Prepaying maaser: According to most authorities, it is permitted to "prepay" maaser, i.e., to give more than is currently owed in expectation of future income. When doing so, one should still be careful to stipulate the exact 10% one is giving.
  • Tzedaka priorities: The priority rankings among different charitable options (e.g., members of your family, poor people in your city, poor people in Israel, Torah scholars, communal needs) is beyond the scope of this brief summary; the reader is encouraged to investigate this important topic.

About Chomesh

As opposed to giving maaser of 10%, the word chomesh means giving 20% (from the Hebrew root of five, or one-fifth).

According to Torah law regarding harvested produce, one is actually obligated to give two different maaser contributions: maaser rishon (given to Levi'im) and either maaser sheni (which is either taken to Jerusalem or redeemed) or maaser ani (which is given to the poor in certain years instead of maaser sheni). Since the obligation or custom to give maaser is based on maaser of produce, it is learned that ideally one should actually give maaser twice, which equals 20% of one's net income.

While not obligatory, giving 20% of one's net income (twice maaser) is considered by some authorities the ultimate way to give maaser. Three noteworthy examples are the Rambam (Mishna Torah: Laws of Gifts to the Poor 7:5), the Vilna Gaon (quoted in Sefer Shaarei Rachamim 45), and the Chafetz Chaim (Ahavat Chesed 2:19:3). Many people who are meticulous to give chomesh report open miracles in the Divine financial assistance that they receive.

Getting Started

The first time you start the app, you can choose the currency you use and whether you give maaser (10%) or chomesh (20%) of your net income. You can change these settings at any time in the Settings screen (if you change the maaser/chomesh setting, the calculations will be redone accordingly).

Also, the first time you start the app, you can choose to see some demo data, to help you understand what using the app is like. If you chose this option the first time you started the app, you can erase all that demo data (so that you can begin entering your own activity data) by navigating to the Settings screen (via the main menu at the top left) and selecting Delete All Data (from the three-dots menu at the top right).

The Main Screen

The main screen is divided into three sections:

  • Top: Displays your current balance (how much maaser/chomesh you owe or have prepaid)
  • Middle: Used to record your activity
  • Bottom: Displays a few of your most recent activities.
    • Tap an activity to open a context menu with three options: Edit, Duplicate and Delete.
    • Tap See all activity at the end of the list to open the Activity screen, where you can review all your activities, sort and filter the activity list, and more.

Recording an Activity

Tap one of the three large buttons on the main screen to record an activity, one of:

  • Earned: Income you received
  • Gave: Charity you gave
  • Spent: Business expenditures, taxes or other deductions you paid in order to generate your income – these amounts are deducted from your amount Earned in order to reduce the amount of actual (net) income on which your maaser is calculated. Important note: If the Earned amounts you entered in the app have already been reduced by expenses, taxes, etc., then do not enter those amounts again as Spent.

Enter the amount you earned, gave or spent, and then tap the blue arrow to the right of the amount.

If you want to enter an activity amount using a currency other than your primary currency, tap the currency symbol next to the amount box and select an alternative currency. If the currency you want to use does not appear in the drop-down list, tap + and then select any additional currencies you would like to use. You can also manage all the currencies you want to use in the Settings screen.

In the next screen, you can:

  • Adjust the date for the activity – this is useful if the activity did not occur on the day you are entering it.
  • Enter a description of the activity in the Detail field – for example, the source of the income, to which charity you gave, or what kind of expense you are recording.

When you are done, tap Save (or the checkmark at the top-right of the screen) and the activity will be applied to your maaser/chomesh record.

Reviewing and Editing Activities

Review the activities you recorded by navigating to the Activity screen via the main menu. Here, you may also:

  • Edit an activity's details: Tap an activity and select Edit. Make any desired changes and tap Save.
  • Duplicate an activity: Tap an activity and select Duplicate. This is an easy way to create a new activity using most of the details of an existing activity (the current date is set for the new, duplicated activity).
  • Delete an activity: Tap an activity and select Delete.
  • Sort the activity list: Tap the A-Z icon at the top of the screen to open the Sort dialog and then make your sort selection there. Tap the Reset button in the dialog to return to the default sort order (date, descending).
  • Filter the activity list: Tap the funnel icon at the top of screen to open the Filter dialog and then make your filter selections there. Tap the Reset button in the dialog to return to remove all filters. When a filter is active, the funnel icon at the top of the screen will be green.

Using Multiple Currencies

Your Primacy Currency

If you earn money and/or make donations in more than one currency, EZ-Maaser makes it easy for you to enter activities in multiple currencies. Your selected primary currency will serve as the basis for tracking your earning and giving; whenever you enter an activity using a different currency, EZ-Maaser will convert the amount in that currency to an equivalent amount in your primary currency. You can change your primary currency in the Settings screen.

Automatic Exchange Rates

When you enter a new activity in an alternative currency, the app will retrieve the relevant exchange rate for the activity's specified date. (EZ-Maaser obtains exchange rates from a third-party financial data provider used by some of the world's largest companies.) If you prefer to use a different exchange rate than the one generated by the app, you may manually adjust the activity amount (which is always in your primary currency) as you wish.

Note that, in most cases, the displayed exchange rate is limited to three decimal places, even though the actual rate in use may contain additional decimal places (for greater accuracy when dealing with large amounts). This explains why the activity amount in your primary currency may be slightly different than the actual (alternative currency) amount multiplied by the displayed exchange rate.

Exchange Rate for Changed Activity Date

If, while editing an existing activity that was initially recorded using an alternative currency, you change the date of the activity, EZ-Maaser will retrieve the correct exchange rate for the new date and recalculate the activity amount for your primary currency.

Changing your Additional Currencies

You can add and remove the additional currencies you want to use at any time, in the Settings screen. You may also do this by tapping the currency symbol next to the amount box on the Main screen and then selecting your desired currency on the Currencies screen.

Changing your Primary Currency

If you need to change your primary currency (e.g., if you move from one country to another), you can make a note of your current maaser/chomesh balance, delete all activity data in the app (see Delete All Data), select a new primary currency, and then enter an initial "carry-over" activity in the new currency that results in an equivalent value to your old balance.

Your Summary

To see an overview of your activity and how your current maaser/chomesh balance is calculated, use the main menu to navigate to the Summary screen. Depending on the size of your device, you may need to scroll the screen up to see all the information presented here.

Settings & Data

Navigate to the Settings & Data screen to adjust the following settings:

  • Change the language of the app's user interface.
  • Change whether you give maaser (10%) or chomesh (20%).
  • Set your primary currency.
    • This cannot be changed when there is any activity data already in the app.
    • If you need to change your primary currency (e.g., if you move from one country to another), you can make a note of your current maaser/chomesh balance, delete all activity data in the app (see Delete All Data), select a new primary currency and then enter an initial "carry-over" activity in the new currency that results in an equivalent value to your old balance.
  • Select one or more additional currencies. For details, see Using Multiple Currencies.

You can also manage your activity data in this screen:

  • Delete All Data: To start fresh, select Delete All Data from the three-dots menu at the top right. This option only appears when activity data exists in the app.
  • Load Demo Data: To explore the app before using it with your own data, select Load Demo Data from the three-dots menu at the top right. When you are ready to begin entering your own activity data, select Delete All Data. This option only appears when no activity data exists in the app.
  • Export to CSV file: To create a CSV file containing all of the activity data held in the app, tap the Export to CSV File button.
    • CSV is a standard file format for data tables; CSV files can be opened and edited in spreadsheet applications (such as Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets).
    • The default method for exporting your data file is via any Share options available on your device (e.g., email, WhatsApp). To share the file, tap the Share button.
    • You may also save the file to your device; to do so, select the Save option on the top-left of the dialog box. For Android devices: After tapping the Export button, tap Select location to select a destination folder on your device for the file and then tap the Save button. For iOS devices: The file will be saved in a default location that will be shown to you after the file is saved. Note: Not all devices will allow the saving of the file to the device; if this function does not work for you, use the Share option instead.
    • Exported CSV files are saved using UTF-8 encoding. If your data contains non-English characters (e.g., Hebrew), then you may need to open the file by specifying the correct encoding (e.g., in Excel, use the "Get Data From Text" command and select the "65001: Unicode (UTF-8)" character encoding).
  • Import from CSV file: To add activity data into the app, you can prepare a CSV file and import its contents into the app by tapping the Import button.
    • After tapping the Import button, tap Select file in order to choose a CSV file that you have previously saved to your device storage, and then tap the Import button. Detailed information about the success or failure of the import operation will be displayed.
    • To ensure that the import operation is successful, it is important to prepare the CSV file according to the following guidelines: (1) The file must be a text file that adheres to the rules of standard CSV files. (2) The first line of the file must contain these four comma-separated field names: Date,Type,Amount,Detail. (3) Each subsequent line in the file must contain four valid corresponding comma-separated values: Date formatted according to your device's locale/region; Type is one of Earned, Gave, Spent; Amount is a valid number; Detail is plain text (optional).
    • The easiest way to see what a valid import file looks like is to export data from the app (see above) and then match the file format you see there.

The Premium Version

All of the core functionality of the EZ-Maaser app is completely free to use (and the app contains no advertising). However, there are a number of advanced features mentioned above that are only available in the Premium version of the app:

  • Enter activities in multiple currencies (including automatic exchange rates).
  • Sort activities in the Activity page.
  • Filter activities in the Activity page.
  • Import activity data from a CSV file.
  • Export activity data to a CSV file (for backup, analysis, etc.).

You can purchase the premium version through the Google Play Store (in Android) or the Apple App Store (in iOS) using one of the Upgrade to Premium buttons in the app's Premium screen: You can choose to subscribe on an annual basis, or make a one-time "forever" purchase.

Note: Premium version registration is per device. Keep your Google Play Order Number in case you need to contact us to move your premium status to a new device.

Data Privacy

The EZ-Maaser app saves all of your activity data on your physical device and does not upload it to the cloud (i.e., to any other device or server). The app does not request or store any personally identifiable information (PII), such as your name or email address. The app generates anonymous usage data for the purposes of improving the product (e.g., usage reporting and analytics). If you use the app's Export to CSV feature, responsibility for the privacy and protection of the exported data is yours alone. If your device is configured to automatically back up your device's apps and/or app data, then the responsibility for the privacy and protection of the backed-up data is solely the responsibility of your back-up service provider. More information can be found in our Privacy Policy.

Feedback

We would be happy to receive your feedback and suggestions via email to support@ez-maaser.com. If you'd like a custom mobile app for your business or organization, contact us!

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I want to give 12% or 15% of my income to charity?

Even among those who already give maaser, many people don't realize that an important spiritual aspect of giving maaser on income is to calculate and give exactly 10% of their net income. (And one who gives chomesh should stipulate that he is giving maaser and another maaser, which equals 20%.) It is certainly praiseworthy to give more than 10% (though it is not permitted to give more than 20% in many situations), but in this case one should be careful to give exactly 10% to maaser and explicitly state/intend that what he gives beyond that amount is regular charity, but not maaser.

In terms of EZ-Maaser, the Summary screen of the app shows you exactly what percentage of your net income you have given. So, if you want to give an extra 2% or 5%, you can use this screen to track that you remain on target over time.

Is there a fast way to enter repeating activities, without typing in the same details each time?

Yes there is. To enter the same type of activity repeatedly (e.g., monthly salary, recurring donation), use the Duplicate function on an existing activity of the same type. The new activity will contain the same amount and details, but with the current date (which, of course, you can change) instead of the original activity's date. If the activity being duplicated was entered using an alternative currency, all of that information will also be correctly duplicated into the new activity (but with the correct exchange rate applied, based on the different activity date).

Another option is to enter a single activity that incorporates many individual entries. For example, if you have an automatic recurring payment of $100 going to a particular charity on the 20th of each month, you can make a single annual activity entry for the 20th of December of each year in the amount of $1,200. (For clarity, you can note in the detail field that this is a monthly recurring donation.) This approach also has the benefit of incorporating known future donations into your current maaser/chomesh balance shown in the app (so that you don't pre-pay more than you intend to).

How I can track my earning and giving for more than one currency, separately?

EZ-Maaser contains a rich set of features to make it easy to track your earning, giving and spending occurring in multiple currencies. The app's approach is to automatically convert all transactions into your primary currency and maintain a single maaser/chomesh balance. Note that the app stores and displays the original currency, original currency amount, and exchange rate used on the activity's date for all such activities recorded in the app.

If you specifically want to keep completely separate records of your earning and giving in two different currencies, your best bet would be to run EZ-Maaser on two different devices (e.g., your phone and your tablet, or your phone and your spouse's phone). In each one, you will choose a different primary currency and then use each device only to record activities that use that currency.

How can I produce reports from my activity data in the app?

Generating reports is currently beyond the scope of the app, but here's how you can address this need: use the app to easily record all of your maaser/chomesh-related activity and then use a spreadsheet application (such as Excel or Google Sheets) to create any reports or graphs you wish. To get your data into the spreadsheet, see Export to CSV File.

Can my spouse and I both make entries in the same maaser account?

The current version of EZ-Maaser stores all your data locally (i.e., on your device itself) and therefore one maaser ledger cannot be accessed from multiple devices. The advantages of this approach are better and more reliable performance (no dependency on Internet connectivity for the app's basic functions), easier privacy protection (no personal data is stored in the cloud), and no need for you to log in before using the app. However, if enough people request this feature, we will certainly consider implementing it!

What happens if I purchase the premium version and then upgrade my phone?

The Premium Purchase screen in the app contains a Restore Purchase button. As long as you are logged in to the same Google or Apple account that you originally used to purchase the Premium version, this button will transfer your Premium purchase to your new device. If this is not possible (e.g., if the original purchase account is no longer available, or if you changed from Android to iOS or vice versa), then contact us using the Get Support button in the About screen and include your original Google or Apple order confirmation number and we will manually transfer your purchase to your new device.

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