Sunday newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag decided to look into the situation after British Prime Minister David Cameron said that a few hundred EU civil servants make more than a prime minister or a chancellor.
The newspaper said thousands of EU civil servants make more than some top EU leaders not only because of the higher salaries but because they have extensive tax privileges, so their net pay is more.
“The EU civil service is the best paid in Europe. Even when compared to German civil servants, the EU ones are living in a land of milk and honey,” said Rainer Holznagel. president of the Federation of German Taxpayers.
He criticized the “innumerable and at times extensive privileges” they get and said “not only the salaries but the tax treatment as well as the generous pension rules have to be immediately reformed.
Populist German newspapers, like the Bild have often complained about the EU and its highly paid civil servants. Germany pays more than any other EU country toward the Brussels budget and forked over €19.7 billion in 2011, according to EU figures.
There are about 46,000 civil servants working for the EU. A high level manager who is married and has one child earns €16,358.80 a month, but that ends up with a salary at the level of an EU country leader because there are tax-free benefits for children and for their school fees – and also for household expenses.
A person at this level would be in a management position and have roughly 12 people under him or her, the paper wrote – far less responsibility than running a country.
It gets better for the 79 civil servants who are EU general directors. After four years in office, such a position for a person without children and who is based in Brussels, earns €21,310.17 monthly – that even surpasses German President Joachim Gauck's €18,083 monthly.
But if you take into account all of the tax-free benefits and added benefits EU civil servants get, the number of people making more money than EU leaders – and also cabinet members and state secretaries – runs into the thousands.
EU civil servants do not pay the national income tax of their home country but pay it directly to the EU – and those rates are relatively moderate, with payments for social services running at 13.3 percent of a base salary. Tax rates are moderate too and there is a limited progression, so if you make more not much more gets taken away.
Inge Gräßle, a Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party member, European parliamentarian and member of its budget control committee mapped out a detailed tax comparison for the various salary levels and seniority.
A department director who earns what Merkel earns on a gross basis, would take home €11,863.56 monthly. If that salary were taxed in Germany it would yield €2,000 less per month.
Even if you use the German tax system – a person earning €9,600 monthly in Brussels could have a job like a main translator and be in that position for four years.
The biggest culprit is the EU tax system, the paper wrote. A single EU civil servant with no kids pays 25 percent income tax. In Gräßle's Baden-Württemberg home town, that person would lose 39 percent to taxes.