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Informal taxation systems – Zakat and Ushr in Pakistan as example for the relevance of parallel/semi-public dues

Lorenz, Christian (2013): Informal taxation systems – Zakat and Ushr in Pakistan as example for the relevance of parallel/semi-public dues.

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This article provides an overview of the religious background of Zakat and the organisation of the Zakat collection in several Islamic countries. Then the mandatory system in Pakistan of Zakat and Ushr is described in more detail. Zakat and Ushr are spent mainly on much targeted areas like social welfare, education and health care for certain population groups. Other types of public goods and services are not covered with funds received from Zakat. Hence, the question arises, whether an Islamic state is according to the Islamic laws entitled to collect additional revenues like taxes in addition to Zakat. A second question is answered in the text, in how far an engagement of religious leaders in tax reform activities is in line with the Islamic law and can contribute to development activities. Taking into account the cultural and religious factors and actors, the involvement of Mullahs or Friday prayers to promote tax morale requires the support of religious scholars, but might have broader impacts even than governmental activities on the public awareness. To answer both questions it is important that - according to important religious scholars - the Islamic state requires additional revenues to cover all necessary demands of its population. One permitted option to collect additional revenues is taxation. Finally the different types of individual giving increase the total amount paid to formal and informal taxation systems in Pakistan by about 1%. Nevertheless, formally the tax to GDP ratio does not change, because Zakat is statistically classified as social assistance benefits, which do not become part of the tax to GDP indicator.

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