ICTD Research in Brief 97

Beyond Greed: Why Armed Groups Tax

Published on 1 August 2023

Armed groups tax. Journalistic accounts often have a tone of surprise about this fact, while policy reports tend to strike a tone of alarm, highlighting the link between armed group taxation and ongoing conflict.

Policymakers often focus on targeting the mechanisms of armed group taxation as part of their conflict strategy, often described as ‘following the money’. We argue that what is instead needed is a deeper understanding of the nuanced realities of armed group taxation, the motivations behind it, and the implications it has for an armed group’s relationship with civilian and diaspora populations, as well as the broader international community.

We build on two distinct literatures, on armed groups and on taxation, to provide the first systematic exploration into the motivation of armed group taxation. Based on a review of the diverse practices of how armed groups tax, we highlight that a full account of the groups’ motivations needs to go beyond revenue motivations, and engage with key themes around legitimacy, control of populations, institution building, and the performance of public authority. Summary of Working Paper 131.

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Bandula-Irwin, T.; Gallien, M.; Jackson, A.; van den Boogaard, V. and Weigand, F. (2023) Beyond Greed: Why Armed Groups Tax, ICTD Research in Brief 97, Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, DOI: 10.19088/ICTD.2023.044


Max Gallien

Research Fellow

Tanya Bandula-Irwin
Ashley Jackson
Florian Weigand

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