This contribution analyses the role of taxation in the constitution of authority in the conflict-ridden eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a multitude of authorities alternately compete and collude over the right to extract resources. Taxation ranges from simple plunder, to protection rackets, to the material reciprocation of the recognition of rights. Focusing on the taxation practices of armed groups, the article argues that taxation is at the core of armed groups’ production of public authority and citizenship, and that their modes of taxation are based on long-standing registers of authority and practices of rule that originate in the colonial era. In particular, the article shows that by appealing to both local customary and national forms of political community and citizenship, armed groups are able to assume public authority to tax civilians. However, their public authority may be undermined by their tendency to reproduce a historical pattern in which authorities forcefully impose a heavy tax burden, while providing limited public goods and services in return.