ISIS made millions from taxes that it then used to run garbage collections and even a DMV

  • Documents found by The New York Times reveal extensive civil systems implemented by the Islamic State.
  • At the peak of their power, the militant group used taxes to fund garbage collectors and a motor vehicle authority.
  • The group collected hundreds of millions of dollars from its taxes from agricultural goods, which it also used to fund its expansion in Iraq and Syria.

Documents found by The New York Times reveal how the Islamic State used taxes to fund its expansion, as well as civil services including garbage collection and a motor vehicle authority.

Over the course of several trips to Iraq, Times reporter Rukmini Callimachi recovered 15,000 pages of internal Islamic State documents from abandoned police stations, courts, and training facilities once used by the militant group.

The papers reveal that the group essentially taxed everything they could, and used that money to self-fund its expansion programs across Iraq and Syria. The funds were also used to support extensive social services.

Former inhabitants of regions occupied by Islamic State told the Times that despite police crackdowns and public executions, the streets in the regions seized by ISIS were always clean.

“Garbage collection was number one under ISIS,” a 42-year-old truck driver told the Times.

Additionally, the Caliphate created municipal offices that issued official birth and marriage certificates and even ran its own motor vehicle department that monitored and registered cars on the road.

Receipts and ledgers obtained by the Times show the group drew major revenue from civil taxes on everyday goods, like wheat and milk, and by reaping profits from goods sold at markets they controlled.

According to the report, the group earned hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue from agriculture programs alone. By developing diversified income sectors and strong social systems, the Islamic State was able to maintain power for years despite countless military strikes and global military intervention.

Documents also detail how the Islamic State forcibly confiscated agricultural property from landowners who were members of banned religious groups.

A previous Times report indicated that ISIS raked in hundreds of millions of dollars from “taxing” and extorting inhabitants of Islamic State territory. According to the 2015 report, officials believed Islamic State made as much as $900 million from its “tax” schemes, which “proved largely impervious to sanctions and air raids.”

Those schemes included building a market in Mosul, one of its former strongholds, and charging vendors 2.8 million Iraqi dinars, or roughly $2,500, per year to rent a stall.

Officials also charged for utilities like water and electricity, and imposed an income tax of about 10%.

ISIS was declared militarily defeated in November, although the group still operates in small swaths of land in Syria. Still, the group has shown small signs on revival in recent clashes with international forces in eastern Syria.

Read the New York Times report here.