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Monday, 6 October 2008

Companies must pay Zakat: Official

DOHA • A panel comprising experts on legal and Shariah issues should be set up to draft a law that makes payment of the annual charity mandatory for shareholding companies in Qatar, a senior official at the Zakat Fund has urged.
The annual charity issue needs to be addressed urgently since only 10 percent of the QR1.2bn yearly Zakat levy due to companies listed on the Doha Securities Market (DSM) was collected in 2007.
In an interview with Al Arab Newspaper, Saif Abdel Noor, Director of Research and Legal Studies Section at the state-run Zakat Fund said that only less than 10 percent of the Zakat levy due from companies has been handed over to the Zakat Fund, which is the accredited body for collecting the fund.
"This situation is prevailing due to the absence of a law that forces companies to pay their dues. I strongly recommend setting of a supreme committee comprising experts in legal and Shariah issues for drafting a law that makes payment of the yearly Zakat levy mandatory for shareholding companies in the country," the official added.
According to the financial results of DSM listed companies, the amount of Zakat levy in 2007 was calculated by the Research and Legal Studies as QR 1.2bn and only less than 10 percent was received.
The basic role of the Zakat Fund is now restricted to reminding the companies of the levies due per share, after it receives a copy of their annual financial results. Then it would collect the cash from companies who pay the due amount voluntarily.
Zakat Fund also gives technical assistance to companies in calculating Zakat levy due on their stocks. At least 32 private firms have also sought the Fund's help in calculating the annual zakat they were supposed to set aside from their surplus earnings. Zakat collection accounted for 80 per cent of Zakat Fund's revenues and it is collected through eight offices.
In compliance with the concept of Zakat in Islam, which is meant to ensure equitable distribution of wealth, the collected fund is donated to needy people through seasonal and continuing projects. Major projects include support of needy students, both citizens and residents, assisting needy families and carrying out mass Iftar programme, Zakat Al Fitr and Eid clothing, among others.
The Fund's surplus has soared to QR62.83m, showing an increase of 23.5 percent over the previous year, thanks to the increasing income of people. Earlier Zakat Fund's Director, Jassem Al Kubaisi, stated that the target figure for this year is QR986m, but till the end of April, a mere QR8m had been raised. He told media that the number of companies and establishments operating in Qatar is estimated to be around 8,000, yet only 80 firms have paid up funds.
According to Saif Abdul Noor, out of the estimated QR883m contributions for the year 2006 only QR68m was received.
Saudi Arabia has already made it obligatory for companies to pay Zakat and UAE will make it obligatory by 2009.
(The Peninsula/By Mohamed Saeed/6Oct08)

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