Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan
(1) May I give zakat to an aunt who I am not sure if she is an eligible recipient or not?
(2) If I pay zakat every year on my pension plan, can I deduct from it a possible exit tax that I would pay if I leave the country?
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
I pray this finds you in the best of health and faith.
(1) It is more preferable to give zakat to relatives (aside from parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, or one’s spouse).
However, one must make an honest effort (taharri) to ensure the recipient is eligible (i.e., has less than nisab excluding debts and basic personal needs). Once an honest effort is made, the zakat payment is valid, even if one later comes to know that the recipient had in fact not been eligible. [Tahtawi/Shurunbulali, Hashiyat al-Tahtawi; Haskafi/Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
(2) Zakat on a pension plan may be paid either each year before cashing it in, or after cashing it in yet retroactively for all previous years.
With respect to the tax amount (25% based on your description), it would not be deductible for zakat purposes, unless you actually took out your pension and paid that tax before your zakat due date for that year, in which case for that year you would pay zakat on the remaining amount (and not on the exit tax you paid).
So for example, if you have $100 in that plan, you would pay the zakat every year on the entire $100 (i.e., $2.50). However, if in a particular year you took out your plan and paid $25 in exit tax before the zakat due date of that year, you would pay zakat on the remaining $75 that year (i.e., $1.88).
And Allah knows best.
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani