Setting off Taxes against Zakat
Zakat is imposed by God and one of the 5 pillars of Islam while taxes are imposed by the rulers. They are totally different and most scholars agree that the payment of taxes does not exempt anyone from paying zakat.
Setting off Taxes against Zakat
· Allocating zakat liability to pay one’s taxes.
In many non-Muslim countries where Muslims are in a minority, Muslims pay heavy taxes. Are they allowed to deduct what they pay in taxes from their zakat liability?
Zakat is a religious duty and one of the pillars on which the structure of Islam is built. It is liable to be paid on monies and cattle when they have been owned for a lunar year provided that they are in excess of a certain threshold defined by scholars. The liability also applies to plants when they are harvested and on minerals and other types of property. The zakat revenue is spent to meet the needs of eight classes of beneficiaries, mentioned in
the Qur’anic verse that says
Charitable donations are only for the poor and the needy, and those who work in the administration of such donations, and those whose hearts are to be won over, for the freeing of people in bondage and debtors, and to further God’s cause, and for the traveller in need. This is a duty ordained by God, and God is All-knowing, Wise
Taxes may be legitimately imposed by the ruler so as to raise funds to conduct the affairs of the state. Scholars have considered whether they may be paid out of one’s zakat liability and came to the conclusion that they may not. However, one may deduct one’s taxes out of his money that is liable to zakat.
This view is generally shared by contemporary scholars:
1. The Permanent Committee for Research and Fatwa considers that when a government requires its people to pay taxes, zakat is not waived for those who have more than its threshold and owned it for a year. They must pay out their zakat and give it to its rightful beneficiaries
2. Shaikh Muhammad Rasheed Rida says that whatever taxes people pay does not count towards their zakat and they cannot be exempt from paying it.
3. The fourth seminar on contemporary issues of zakat held in Bahrain 17–19 Dhul-Qa'dah 1414 AH, 29–31 March 1994 stated: ‘The payment of taxes imposed by government does not exempt anyone from paying zakat. The two are totally different as to who require them and the purposes for which they are paid.
4. The Tunisian Fatawa, vol. 2, stated under No. 183 that ‘taxes cannot be considered in lieu of zakat’; No. 184: ‘taxes cannot replace zakat’; and No. 185 clarifies that zakat is totally different from taxes in their conditions and the purposes for which they are paid. In general the Tunisian Fatawa make clear that there are more claims on money than zakat, and these claims cannot compensate for zakat. 
5. The late Shaikh Mahmood Shaltoot, former Rector of al-Azhar, considers that there is a fundamental difference between tax and zakat, and that what is paid in tax may not be counted towards one’s zakat liability. He adds: ‘Zakat is legislated by God and a duty stipulated by faith. It must be paid out whether it is needed or not, serving as a permanent resource for the poor and the needy who exist in every community. Tax, on the other hand, is imposed by the ruler when needed. As such, the two are totally different in their sources, purposes, amounts and continuity.
· Muhammad Rasheed Rida, Fatawa, Beirut.
· Fatawa by The Permanent Committee for Research and Fatwa.
· Muhammad ibn Yunus al-Suwaisi al-Tawzari, Al-Fatawa al-Tunisiyyah fi al-Qarn al-Rabi[ [Ashar al-Hijri, ‘Tunisian Fatwas issued during the fourteenth century AH (1883–1980 CE)’.
· Mahmood Shaltoot, Al-Fatawa.
- The Permanent Committee for Research and Fatwa, Fatwa No. 7,551, vol. 9, p. 423 and vol. 9, p. 339
- M.R. Rida, Fatawa, vol. 1, p. 229 and vol. 6, p. 2,589.
- M. ibn Yunus al-Suwaisi al-Tawzari, Al-Fatawa al-Tunisiyyah, vol. 2.
- M. Shaltoot, Al-Fatawa, p. 125.