The difference between zakaah and taxes
What is the difference between zakaah and income tax? Is it obligatory to pay these taxes? What if the state does not spend them in the public interest?
Praise be to Allah
Zakaah is one of the pillars of Islam. In Islam, it comes after the twin testimony of faith (ash-shahaadatayn) and prayer in importance. The fact that it is obligatory is proven by the Qur’an and Sunnah, and by the consensus of Muslim scholars.
As for the taxes that are determined and imposed by the state upon the people, in general terms they are financial obligations that the state imposes upon individuals and organisations, with the aim of financing state expenditures, such as spending on education, health, roads and so on.
The basic principle regarding taxes is that they are unlawful and it is not permissible to impose them except in the case of necessity, which is when the coffers of the bayt al-maal (treasury) are empty and there are pressing needs that cannot be financed except by imposing taxes. In this case, the imposition of taxes is an exceptional measure, in which attention must be paid to treating people equitably as much as possible. It is not permissible to make that something ongoing and permanent.
It says in al-Mawsoo‘ah al-Fiqhiyyah (8/247):
Taxes may be imposed upon the population to serve their interests, whether that is for the purpose of jihad or otherwise. They should not be imposed upon them except when the funds in the bayt al-maal (treasury) are not sufficient, and it is a case of necessity, otherwise the taxes are an unlawful source of income.
It says in Kashshaaf al-Qinaa‘ (3/139):
It is haraam to impose a “tithe” [a tax of 10%] upon the wealth of the Muslims. End quote.
A “tithe” means taking one-tenth of wealth; they used to take one tenth of merchants’ wealth. This is what is called taxes nowadays.
If a Muslim is not able to avoid this injustice, then he may pay what he is forced to of taxes, then on the Day of Resurrection, Allah will judge among His slaves with justice.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
Everything that is taken unlawfully comes under the heading of taxes, which is prohibited. It is not permissible for anyone to take his brother’s wealth unlawfully, as the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “If you sell some produce to your brother then it is stricken with blight, it is not permissible for you to take anything from him. Why would you take your brother’s wealth unlawfully?” But the Muslim is required to hear and obey those in authority.
It is not permissible for us to take such matters as a means to impugn those in authority and revile them in our gatherings and the like. Let us be patient, and what we cannot attain in this world (of justice) we will attain in the hereafter. End quote.
Liqaa’ al-Baab al-Maftooh (65/12).
Note: it is not permissible to count what is paid in taxes as part of one’s zakaah.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) was asked: Does what the authorities charge as tolls on the roads count as zakaah or not?
He replied: What the authorities charge for purposes other than zakaah cannot be counted as zakaah. And Allah knows best. End quote.
Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa (30/343).
The scholars of the Standing Committee for Issuing Fatwas said:
It is not permissible to count the taxes that business owners pay on their wealth as part of the zakaah that is due on that wealth. Rather the obligatory zakaah must be paid separately and spent on the designated causes which Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, mentioned in the verse (interpretation of the meaning): “Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler - an obligation [imposed] by Allah . And Allah is Knowing and Wise” [at-Tawbah 9:60]. End quote.
Fataawa al-Lajnah ad-Daa’imah (9/285).
And Allah knows best.