Muslims in the UK are often surprised at the discrepancy in the rates of zakatul fitr set by different Mosques without understanding why. There is also some confusion about who has to pay zakatul fitr and who is eligible to receive it. Some scholars have said that every head of a household has to pay it [even if they end up receiving zakatul fitr later on, in order for their household to join in with the Eid celebrations!]
The purpose of zakatul fitr is that on the day of Eid ul Fitr every Muslim family can have some food in the morning after a month of fasting. It is sunnah to eat something before you go to the Eid prayers on Eid ul Fitr, while it is sunnah to go to the Eid congregation without eating on Eid ul Adha.
The Hadith, narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar (ra), which states that,
“The Messenger of Allah, Mohammed (pbuh) commanded zakatul fitr to be paid in the form of a saa’a of dates or a saa’a of barley by all Muslims; slave, free, male and female young and old. He (pbuh) commanded that it should be paid before the people went out to pray the Eid salaat3] say that zakatul fitr cannot be paid in cash; it must be given in the form of food. You could send the money to a relative or organisation early in Ramadan with instructions or responsibility to buy food with this money and deliver the food in time so that the needy person can use this food to join in with the Eidul Fitr celebrations.
It is too late to pay money into the Mosque collection box after the Eid prayer, and in this case you would not get the reward for paying zakatul fitr. If you did not pay it at all, you would be sinful. The scholars agree that the head of the household is responsible for paying zakatul fitr for himself and every member of his household; it is also recommended to pay for any unborn children if someone in the household is pregnant.
The ulema do not agree on the price of 2.25kg of wheat, however; this is why some mosques say £3.00 per person and others say £5.00 per person. If you understand the purpose of zakatul fitr and the way it was paid by the companions of the Prophet (pbuh), you can work out the price yourself.
Another alternative is to pay directly to the needy person money for a meal (or the meal itself) to feed a person until they are satisfied for each member of your household. You can deliver it any time from the sighting of the new moon (Eid begins at Maghrib). Depending on what kind of meal you choose and where you buy it from, the cost of a meal can vary from £2.00 to £20.00!
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) also taught that if a relative is needy and eligible for sadaqaat (including zakatul mal and zakatul fitr) than he has more right on you than a non relative. Today Muslims are dispersed all over the world with western Muslims having many needy relatives living in the ancestral lands. The logistical difficulties of delivering food within a narrow time frame to relatives spread over many different cities compared to a community of Muslims living together in a small area (as Medina was in the time of the Prophet (pbuh)) means that many Muslims send cash via Western Union or even to mobile phones in some African countries. These relatives would be trusted to buy food for their own families, although this cannot be guaranteed! Some of the knowledgeable Imams on the community channels have said that this is acceptable.
Other scholars say that the purpose of the zakatul fitr is to help the needy to celebrate Eid ul Fitr, so it is acceptable to give it in cash; the needy person can decide if they buy food or clothes with it as he wishes. We pray that Allah gives the Ummah the ability to understand and unite on truth and Justice.
Mohammed Mominur Rahman
19th Ramadan 1433 Hijri
 Agreed upon (Bukhari and Muslim)
 Such as Ibn Hazim al Andalusi
 e.g. Mufti Abdul Muntaqim.
SOURCE: Zakatul Fitr