Keeping the State Out
The National Zakat (compulsory alms) Agency, Baznas, is once again calling for civil servants and private employees to be obliged to pay zakat through compulsory salary deductions. The state should not intervene with the management of alms.
THE government should reject the proposal from the National Zakat (obligatory alms) Agency (Baznas), which wants a 2.5 percent deduction from the salaries of civil servants and private employees to pay the alms obligatory for all Muslims, known as zakat. But alms, like prayers and fasting, is a private matter that the state must not intervene in. Let muzaki (those obliged to pay zakat), chose their own way.
The small amount of alms received today is not a reason to turn the obligation on Muslims into a legal requirement. Baznas wants this in the form of a presidential regulation. If Baznas gets its way, salary deductions from civil servants and private employees will be managed directly by the government institution. This monopoly would be at odds with the 2013 judicial review ruling by the Constitutional Court that individual alms collectors also have the right to manage zakat.
Baznas always claims that potential alms receipts in Indonesia are up to Rp200 trillion. The actual amount it collected 2019 was only around Rp10 trillion. Baznas blames this on people not paying their zakat through official alms collecting organizations. As a result, says Baznas, the amount received is far less than the potential total. However, the mistake that Baznas makes is to view this shortfall as a loss. They seems to forget that the most important things when paying alms are the ability of those obliged to do so and the donations reaching those to receive them, the mustahik.
In order to increase alms receipts, Baznas—and other zakat and donation collectors—are already doing the right thing by digitalizing the process. Working with a number of digital wallet companies, Baznas is making it easier to pay. Alms can also be paid through bank transfer. This kind of service innovation could encourage people to donate, especially if Baznas is transparent and accountable in the way it manages the distribution of funds collected from the public.
It is only fair if we are suspicious about the way the state gathers funds from the public. In the management of taxes, there has no improvement. Our tax ratio has actually fallen to around 8 percent, the lowest in the last few years. This ratio puts Indonesia at the level of poor countries. The recently revealed scandal of bribes paid to tax investigators has made matters worse. In short, the widely proclaimed taxation reforms look further and further away from reality. Given the problems with the tax system, the state should not intervene too far in the management of alms.
The state would be going too far if it made Baznas the national regulator, operator and coordinator of alms. Having this many responsibilities would mean Baznas would be rife with conflicts of interest. How could it be a good regulator if it were also the operator? After all, in order to grow, the philanthropic world needs trust. The key to this trust is having an independent regulator.
BaznaThe lobbying at the Palace by Baznas pushing for a presidential regulation on salary deductions for alms should stop. As well as inviting the state to interfere in private matters, it will only make matters more complicated. If it wants to see a growth in alms payments, the government would do better to focus on improving regulations so that a proper regulator is formed, rather than granting the wish of Baznas to oblige civil servants and private employees to pay zakat.