Should business owners tithe on the gross income or the net income?

Question from a reader:

I have read Money, Possessions, and Eternity twice. The Holy Spirit has used your book to convict me in many areas of my life, and I am very grateful for your knowledge of the Scriptures. I have a question about tithing that I would like to ask you. I have a friend who owns a business. I do not know his exact figures, but his gross income is large and his net income is less than ten percent. Because his gross is large, his net is a large amount of money. However, if he were tithing off his gross he would have very little, if any, money to live on. How do business owners tithe? As a business owner myself I have run into this problem and thought you might have an answer.

Answer from Randy Alcorn:

Tithing is done on profit—what you have truly made, how much you’ve actually come out ahead. That wouldn’t include all gross business income, since much, usually most, of that must pay for the business goods, employees, etc., which are providing the services making the money in the first place. But it would include all gross personal income, which is everything that is available and spendable in your personal life. It includes that which is designated to be spent on things such as taxes, groceries, etc. So “business net” may be a relevant concept, but it’s not just “personal net,” on what’s left after taxes and bills are paid. In fact, if you look at the value you’re getting for company—paid retirement, life insurance, health insurance, a car used for personal benefit, etc., these should certainly be regarded as provisions of the Lord. Since Scripture says “a tithe of everything” God has provided, I would count the monetary value of these things.

Some think this extreme, but logically, your company could also pay your rent and groceries rather than give you the money—would they then be exempt from the tithe? So tithing, I think, should be not just on the cash you get, but the cash value of all you don’t see directly, but which is going to your benefit.