NewsAmerican embassy leads $182 million embassy debt crisis in London

American embassy leads $182 million embassy debt crisis in London

Debts of embassies in London. Will TfL collect the overdue money?
Debts of embassies in London. Will TfL collect the overdue money?
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11:43 AM EDT, May 22, 2024

In 2003, a congestion charge was introduced in London. Many embassies in the United Kingdom's capital refuse to pay it. The debt of the American embassy has already reached $18.6 million. It's not the only country that owes money; the list of debtors includes China, Japan, and India. The British authorities plan to address the issue.

Transport for London (TfL) has reported the debts of some embassies and consular offices in the city. These debts resulted from the failure to pay the fee for entering the center of the British capital. According to the Interia portal, diplomats from the United States are the most indebted, with a debt amounting to $18.6 million. This situation stems from the congestion charge introduced in 2003.

The daily charge of £15 ($19) applies to all drivers who travel in the strict centre of the British capital from Monday to Friday, between 2 AM and 1 PM Eastern Time. The charge also applies on weekends and holidays from 7 AM to 1 PM Eastern Time. Taxi drivers, electric car drivers, and center residents are exempt from the congestion charge.

Although the regulations do not exclude embassies from this obligation, representatives of many embassies hold a different opinion. US diplomats argue that the congestion charge is a tax, and "diplomatic missions do not bear tax charges imposed by the state they are in."

The spokesman for the American embassy emphasizes that this viewpoint is shared by many other countries. TfL, however, has a different perspective.

Will TfL pursue indebted embassies?

TfL emphasizes that the charge is not a tax but a service. Therefore, the exemption does not apply. The list of debtors includes 161 embassies and other consular offices whose debts have already exceeded $182 million. In addition to the United States, the largest debts are held by the embassies of Japan and China.

TfL announces that it will collect the overdue charges. The institution's statement indicates that it will also take steps for the case to be addressed by the International Court of Justice.

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