Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, pays no taxes. The Guardian today reveals that:
As an official of an international institution, her salary of $467,940 (£298,675) a year plus $83,760 additional allowance a year is not subject to any taxes. . . The same applies to nearly all United Nations employees.
She receives a pay and benefits package "worth more than American president Barack Obama earns from the United States government, and he pays taxes on it."
On Friday, the paper reported:
Lagarde, predicting that the debt crisis has yet to run its course, adds: "Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax." She says she thinks "equally" about Greeks deprived of public services and Greek citizens not paying their tax.
"I think they should also help themselves collectively." Asked how, she replies: "By all paying their tax."
Lagarde is entirely within her rights to pay no tax. Article 34 of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations of 1961 declares:
A diplomatic agent shall be exempt from all dues and taxes, personal or real, national, regional or municipal.
(The convention is the same treaty used by the American embassy in London to argue that they don't need to pay their £5.2m congestion charge bill) But right or not, it seems like a good rule of thumb that if you do not pay any tax, you do not get to tell other people off for not paying tax. Especially if you earn around twenty times the median wage of the country you are telling off.
As Alex Andreou wrote following Lagarde's unpopular "advice":
There are very few ways one could make such a move even more cack-handed. One could choose, as the vessel of such sentiments, an ex-Finance Minister of a Eurozone country; perhaps someone who left France with its highest deficit in 60 years. One could choose someone currently under investigation for not just one but two cases of fraud in shady financial deals. One could even accompany this interview with a pictorial which showed her dispensing thrift advice, while displaying a deep tropical tan, heavy jewellery and expensively tailored clothes.
Time to add one more to that list.