The Economics of Section 170: A Case for the Charitable Deduction of Parochial School Tuition

53 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2010 Last revised: 21 May 2011

See all articles by Meir Katz

Meir Katz

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: May 16, 2011


That payments for parochial school tuition are not deductible under Section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code is a foregone conclusion in the eyes of many tax policy scholars. Tuition provides an easy case because the donor receives something of great value in return for his donation: the education of his children. This Article questions that conclusion. By taking a close look at the economics behind these tuition payments in the context of a discrete population, the religious Jewish community, I show that traditional economic assumptions are inappropriate for analysis of those payments. Rather than a traditional economic exchange for economically valuable services, tuition payments should be characterized as payments made for unique and vital religious services-payments in exchange for an intangible religious benefit. The benefit of education, so characterized, is not different from many other intangible religious benefits for which corresponding payments are fully deductible. With that observation, I apply traditional tax policy analysis and the policy justifications for Section 170 to payments for parochial school tuition and present an argument for the deduction of tuition payments.

Keywords: tution, tax deduction, charitable donation, day school, parochial school, religion

Suggested Citation

Katz, Meir, The Economics of Section 170: A Case for the Charitable Deduction of Parochial School Tuition (May 16, 2011). Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 12, No. 2, p. 224, Spring 2011. Available at SSRN:

Meir Katz (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

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