Talibanomics: crippling taxes on a starving people in a collapsed economy

Long before retaking power, the Taliban had established a tax system to raise revenue for its war against the Afghan government and its Western allies. It collected Islamic tithes, oshr and zakat from farmers, and taxed shops and businesses, as well goods passing through the territories it held at checkpoints.

According to a 2021 estimate, the group raised $40 million a year just by taxing opium sales. And roadside taxes amount to roughly $245 million in 20 years.

Now in power, extracting taxes has become the group’s main source of revenue. But for many, the taxes imposed are arbitrary and extortionate, with no services delivered in return.

KabulNow spoke to people across Afghanistan to see how the Taliban taxes had impacted them and the businesses. Names have been changed to for their security.


Dawood, a shopkeeper in the city of Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of the norther province of Baghlan, complained that the Taliban had tripled his taxes. The annual tax he paid under the previous government amounted to 2,000 AFN ($22.26), which has increased to 6,000 AFN. 

Hashmat, another shopkeeper in the city, said that local Taliban officials taxed businesses arbitrarily, without considering assets and assessing revenues. “These taxes are oppressive and un-Islamic,” he said.

Yasin, a tailor, said the taxes imposed on him were “cruel” and that he had been threatened with closure order if he didn’t pay. The Taliban tax collectors, he said, forced him to accept and sign an order and pay 9,600 AFN ($107). Under the previous government, his taxes were low. “All I have is one tailoring machine. Life is hard. We are forced to pay taxes we can’t afford. I may have to close and leave the country.”


Jamshid, a pharmacist in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, said that under the previous government, his quarterly tax payments amounted to between 30,000 and 40,000 AFN ($334 to $445), which the Taliban has increased to 130,000 and 140,000 AFN ($1,447 and $1558). 

Shopkeepers and businesses are also charged for their shop front signs. The larger the sign the more you must pay. 

Qader, a shopkeeper in Mazar-i-Sharif, complained that he had to pay 1,000 AFN ($11) for his shop sign and 500 AFN ($5.50) for the space in front of his shop. 

“People are a lot poorer than before. I hardly sell anything. They forced me to pay a large sum, at gun point,” Qader said.


Wali, a photocopier in Gardez, the capital of the eastern province of Paktia, complained that his taxes had been doubled. “They forced me to remove my shop sign, as I couldn’t afford to pay,” he said.

Kamal, a shopkeeper in the city, said his taxes had been tripled. “I have to pay tax on my assets, the shop sign and a licence.” 


Nasr sells clothes in the western city of Herat. He said that he couldn’t afford the crippling taxes imposed on him. “People don’t have money to spend on clothes, and I don’t make any money. But I am forced to pay taxes I can’t afford,” he said.

Rahim, a shopkeeper, said that his taxes had increased “many times”. “Last year I paid 10,000 AFN ($111). This year, they want 30,000 AFN.” 


Wali, a grocer in Tarinkot, the capital of the central province of Uruzgan, said his taxes had quadrupled since the Taliban’s return to power. But there were no services delivered in return. “I know someone who had to sell his shop to cover the tax bill,” he said.

Rahman, a street vendor, said he paid multiple taxes he didn’t understand. “I am threatened and forced to pay. Sometimes, Taliban soldiers collect taxes on their own.”