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GreekReporter.comEuropeMillionaire for Humanity: Heiress Gives Away $27 Million Fortune

Millionaire for Humanity: Heiress Gives Away $27 Million Fortune

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“I have inherited a fortune, and therefore power, without having done anything for it.” Credit: Facebook/Marlene Engelhorn

An Austrian heiress has decided to give up most of her fortune, and she has set up a citizens group to decide where the money would go.

Thirty-one-year-old Marlene Engelhorn wants fifty Austrians to determine how €25 million ($27.5m) of her inheritance from her grandmother should be redistributed.

“I have inherited a fortune, and therefore power, without having done anything for it,” she said. “And the state doesn’t even want taxes on it.”

Austria abolished inheritance tax in 2008, one of a handful of European countries that do not impose inheritance tax or death duties. Engelhorn believes that is unfair.

“If politicians don’t do their job and redistribute, then I have to redistribute my wealth myself,” the heiress explained in her statement.

“Many people struggle to make ends meet with a full-time job, and pay taxes on every euro they earn from work,” said Engelhorn. “I see this as a failure of politics, and if politics fails, then the citizens have to deal with it themselves.”

Engelhorn is a highly vocal advocate for a global wealth tax and a founding member of the German-speaking initiative “Tax Me Now,” asking for higher taxes on the wealthy.

Heiress wants to hand out at least 90 percent of her fortune

The heiress is a descendant of Friedrich Engelhorn, the founder of German chemical and pharmaceutical company, BASF, and inherited millions when her grandmother died in September 2022.

Traudl Engelhorn-Vechatto’s wealth was estimated by US magazine Forbes at $4.2 billion, and even before she died, her grand-daughter had declared that she wanted to hand out about 90 percent of her inheritance.

On Wednesday, ten thousand invitations targeting randomly selected Austrian citizens began arriving in letterboxes in Austria.

Those who wish to take part in Engelhorn’s initiative, known as the Good Council for Redistribution, can register online or by phone. From that initial sample of ten thousand Austrians who are all aged over sixteen, fifty people will be chosen, with fifteen substitute members also selected in case of dropouts.

Christoph Hofinger, Managing Director of the Foresight Institute who is supporting the initiative, said the council to redistribute the heiress’s money would be made up of fifty people “from all age groups, federal states, social classes and backgrounds”.

The group will be asked to “contribute their ideas in order to jointly develop solutions in the interests of society as a whole,” he said.

They will take part in a series of meetings to be held in Salzburg with academics and civil society organizations from March to June this year.

Engelhorn believes their discussions will be a “service to democracy,” and so they should be properly compensated for it.

“I have no veto rights,” she said: “I am putting my assets at the disposal of these 50 people and placing my trust in them.”

If they cannot come up with a “widely supported” decision on what to do with the money, then the money goes back to Engelhorn.

It is not clear exactly what proportion of her inheritance is being given away, although back in 2021, she said she wanted to hand out at least ninety percent of it because she had done nothing to earn it and had merely struck lucky in a “birth lottery.”

Her team has not confirmed how much she is holding back although it was said she was retaining some kind of financial buffer.

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