Former President Fernando de la Rúa is no stranger to economic scandal. He is probably best known for having been evacuated by helicopter from the roof of the Casa Rosada among intense protest in light of 2001’s severe economic crisis. Despite resigning after being in office during the worst moment in Argentina’s modern economic history, de la Rúa has petitioned the National Tax Court to exempt him from a 35 percent the Federal Public Revenue Administration (AFIP) withholds from his special life pension.
De la Rúa argued that his pension of AR $176,000 per month should be adjusted to equal the remuneration that ministers of the Supreme Court receive. He claimed that he, like the justices, should not pay taxes on this form of income. He believes that his 35 percent deduction destroyed “the equivalence and identity enshrined in the law” with deductions allocated to members of the Court, and invoked the “intangibility” of his salary as fixed by the national Constitution.
When de la Rúa first made these claims in 2009, the AFIP, then under the command of Ricardo Echegaray, denied that he had any legal basis. “Nowhere does it say that the benefits granted to judicial officials should be extended to members who have held the highest political office that can be held in our Republic,” said the agency. De la Rúa appealed to the Fiscal Court, which issued a ruling in his favor last February. The decision, signed by members Armando Magallón and José Luis Pérez, only came to light this week.
De la Rúa further reasoned that his pension had special characteristics that exempted it from being considered as a remuneration based on personal earnings. He said that his earnings deduction brought his pension below the salary of a member of the House of Appeals, “when the legal intention is that in no case will that amount be less than that of Supreme Court ministers.” The AFIP disagreed, stating that his pension does derive from personal earnings.
The Tax Court had final say. In February, it mandated that de la Rúa’s sum “be equal to the sum that corresponds to the remuneration of the judges of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, in accordance with the wishes of the legislator,” according to La Nación.
This ruling does not set a precedent with respect to the AFIP, which will try to appeal. But it does open the door for claims from other beneficiaries of the same type of pension, such as former Presidents Carlos Menem, Cristina Kirchner, Estela Martínez de Perón and Adolfo Rodríguez Saá, and former Vice Presidents Julio Cobos, Víctor Martínez, Daniel Scioli and Amado Boudou, among others.