Royal Budgets Face Cuts in Austerity Wracked Europe
CNBC Reporter & Editor
Queens are not typically accused of tax evasion. After all, they were long the taxers rather than the taxed.
Yet Belgium's prime minister, Elio Di Rupo, has rebuked Queen Fabiola for trying to shield some of her fortune from taxes. He is also planning to cut her stipend by more than $800,000 per year, leaving her struggling to get by on a mere $2 million.
The Queen was planning to set up a private fund that would allow her to pass some of her fortune to relatives in Spain and charities without paying taxes. (The Spanish-born Fabiola is the widow of King Baudouin, who died in 1993. His brother, Albert II, is now king.)
Di Rupo said the government is launching a review of how the stipend money is used, to "allow the citizens to know what is being done ... including what the royal family does with taxpayers' money," Di Rupo told The Associated Press.
(Read more: British Royals Aren't Even Billionaires)
Belgium isn't alone, of course. In austerity-gripped Europe, voters and politicians don't have the same quaint tolerance for the costs of keeping up the royals. In Britain, the government has frozen payments to the Queen, at least through April, at $50 million a year.
Spain's monarch, King Juan Carlos, is highlighting his utility to the Spanish people after fierce criticism about a luxury hunting trip he took in Botswana. The palace gets around $10 million a year from the Spanish government. The king is now promoting himself as the country's chief economic booster.
And the Dutch royal family is under pressure to cut costs after one study revealed them to be the most expensive in Europe relative to national population. Queen Beatrix and her family costs the country around $50 million a year, according to a study by professor Herman Matthijs at Ghent University.
(Read more: What It Would Cost to Own a Downton Abbey)
Queen Beatrix, however, has said publicly that she sees "no reason" for her to reduce her $1 million annual salary.
To me, the solution to the costly royal problem seems simple. All the money made by celebrity magazines and TV from stories on royals should help to contribute to their support. So whenever a magazine or newspaper or TV station runs pictures of video of royals, they need to pay a small tax. That way, the royals would earn their keep through their greatest value – as entertainment for the masses.