Marlene Engelhorn, a 31-year-old heiress, is making headlines for her efforts to redistribute her substantial $27.4 million inheritance from her grandmother, Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto, who passed away in September 2022.
Engelhorn, a strong advocate for wealth redistribution, co-founded ‘Tax Me Now,’ a group of affluent individuals in German-speaking countries pushing for higher taxes on the wealthy. Her inheritance comes from the chemical company BASF, founded by her ancestor Friedrich Engelhorn.
The heiress has decided to reach out to her Austrian community
Engelhorn has extended invitations to 10,000 randomly selected Austrian citizens aged 16 and above to carry out her goal. These individuals are invited to participate in the Good Council for Redistribution, comprising 50 selected members and 15 substitutes.
The council members can distribute Marlene Engelhorn’s entire fortune to one or multiple institutions, either within Austria or internationally. However, there are certain ethical and legal guidelines in place. The funds cannot support inhumane or unconstitutional activities. Nor can they be directed towards profit organizations or endeavors that contradict the principles of wealth redistribution.
The council is scheduled to convene in Salzburg for six weekends, during which they will have the opportunity to gather expert advice on the most effective methods for redistributing Engelhorn’s inheritance. This structured approach ensures that the wealth is channeled in ways that align with ethical standards and the overarching goal of equitable wealth distribution.
Additionally, the heiress advocated for higher taxes on the 1%
Engelhorn, acknowledging her fortunate inheritance, has publicly advocated for higher taxes on the top one percent of society. In August 2022, she participated in the Millionaires for Humanity event in Amsterdam, campaigning for increased taxes on the rich. In a Facebook video, she emphasized the importance of social justice and called for wealth taxes, stating, “Tax us. Millionaires should not get to decide whether or not they contribute justly to the societies they live in.”
In 2008, inheritance tax was abolished in Austria
“I have inherited a fortune and therefore power without having done anything for it. And the state doesn’t even want to tax it,” Engelhorn said, per The Times. “Meanwhile, many people in full-time jobs were struggling to make ends meet and paying tax on every euro they earned from their labor.”
“I see this as a failure of political decision-makers,” she added. “It’s not the inheritance that should ensure that I’m doing well in life but the way I contribute to society and the fact that we look after each other in society. But if my birth is the deciding factor, then something is wrong. Because we are not a society that defines people by birth, but a democracy.”
In an interview with the Washington Post, Engelhorn highlighted wealth inequality in Austria, where the richest one percent holds up to 50 percent of the net wealth. Interestingly, Austria abolished taxes on gifts and inheritances in 2008, contrasting with some U.S. states that have independent inheritance taxes.
Comparatively, the United States lacks a federal inheritance tax, while the UK imposes a 40 percent inheritance tax on estates exceeding £325,000. Exceptions exist, such as leaving assets above the threshold to a spouse, charity, or a ‘community amateur sports club.’ The specificity of the latter exception may raise eyebrows.