Thomas Piketty, the French economist whose best-selling book has added tinder to the debate on income inequality, counts the world’s richest person among his fans.

“I had this discussion with Bill Gates a couple of weeks ago,” Piketty, the author of “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” said Jan. 3 at an economics conference in Boston. “He told me, ‘I love everything that’s in your book, but I don’t want to pay more tax.” A tax on wealth is one of Piketty’s key recommendations for addressing inequality.

“I understand his point,” said Piketty, 43, who teaches at the Paris School of Economics. “I think he sincerely believes he’s more efficient than the government, and you know, maybe he is sometimes.”

Piketty didn’t explain the circumstance of his conversation with Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft Corp. Melissa Milburn, a spokeswoman for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment.

Piketty examined centuries of data on countries including the U.S., Sweden, France and the U.K. to show that returns on capital in excess of economic growth lead to widening disparities in wealth. The Financial Times chose “Capital” as the best Business Book of the Year.

Last week, he refused to accept France’s highest decoration, the Legion d’honneur.

Piketty told Agence France-Presse that the government would “do better to concentrate on reviving growth,” rather than handing out awards. He declined to comment further Jan. 3.