Can Taxes Substitute For Zakat? In the contemporary societies today, many questions concerning the tax and Zakat arise. Such questions need a discussion and analysis from the opinion of scholars. The question such as must a Muslim tax payers pay Zakat in addition to the taxes paid to the government? Or can taxes substitute Zakat in the first place? In order to answer those questions, we must always remember that there’s an essential features of Zakat, without it Zakat does not exist. The important things is the rates of Zakat that has been determined by Shariah. Then the intention is to fulfill the worship in obedience to Allah.
Lastly, the distribution of Zakat fund has to be made to the eight beneficiaries. On the contrary, tax rates do not follow the rates determined in the Shariah. Some tax rates are more than Zakat rates on certain assets and less on others. Some zakatable items are not taxable at all, while some taxable assets and incomes are not liable for Zakat in Shariah. As for intention, the tax payers who pay taxes cannot assume that payment of taxes considered as Zakat even they have intention of paying Zakat. In this context, the intention of worship is not pure because it has been mix by social obligation and not for the sake of Allah.
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The distribution of zakat fund must be proceeds to the eight beneficiaries mentioned by Quran. Let say if government collects Zakat, this collection must take the name of Zakat. Moreover if the taxes collected under other names, it does not replace Zakat and cannot be counted as Zakat as it do not carry the name form of Zakat. There were some scholars that seem to be approved of taxes replacing Zakat. Ibn Taimiyah is quoted that levies taken by the government in the name of maks (taxes) can be given with the intention of paying Zakat, and obligatory Zakat is thus fulfilled, even such payments do not take the form of Zakat.
The motivation behind such opinion is that they were given with the desire to avoid over-burdening sincere Muslims who were already charged several oppressive taxes. Besides that, there were also majority of scholars who do not approve of replacing taxes with Zakat. Based on the maks (taxes), Muslim scholars come to the opinion that the maks collectors are thieves or armed robbers. Muslim scholars warn Muslim payers that making the intention of paying Zakat when they pay taxes to maks collectors is improper and meaningless.
Thus Zakat cannot replace taxes and taxes cannot replace Zakat. They cannot substitute for the other. Tax are obliged by law and Zakat is obligated by the religion of Allah. Zakat must be collected even if the proportion of tax is sufficient enough to cover the expenditure by the government. This is due to the commandment of Allah and no one can abolish it. It must be collected under the name of Zakat, at the same rates and condition as prescribed by Allah. Zakat also must be spent on the proper deserving categories as been mentioned in the Quran.