Austrian Heiress Donates $27 Million, Advocates for Higher Taxes

Austrian Heiress Donates $27 Million, Advocates for Higher Taxes

An heiress who has criticized Austria for not having inheritance and wealth taxes donated the majority of her fortune, 25 million euros ($27 million), to 77 organizations, many of which are left-wing and social justice and environmental groups.

Marlene Engelhorn, 32, has been campaigning for reform and denouncing the birth lottery for years, which gave her the opportunity to inherit tens of millions of dollars without having to donate any of it to the government.

In January, she declared that the distribution of the money will be decided by a panel chosen by a pollster to represent the Austrian population, with no involvement from her. On Tuesday, the list of 77 honorees was made public.

“A large part of my inherited wealth, which elevated me to a position of power simply by virtue of my birth, contradicting every democratic principle, has now been redistributed in accordance with democratic values,” Engelhorn stated.

Although she keeps an undisclosed amount, a spokeswoman said that the 25 million euros represented “the overwhelming bulk” of her money.

“Above all the question of the effects of our uneven distribution of wealth,” she said, the panel had discussed “tax justice, social inequality, and democracy and participation in it.”

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Engelhorn’s father, Friedrich Engelhorn, established the massive German chemicals company BASF in 1865. His great-grandson was married by her grandmother Gertraud Engelhorn-Vechiatto. Upon the death of Engelhorn-Vechiatto in 2022, Marlene inherited a substantial amount.

The panel, which consisted of 50 people ranging in age from 16 to 85, stated in a statement that it supported “a fairer distribution of wealth, more transparency and reporting on that issue and better data on very large accumulations of wealth.”

To that end, two of the four contributions totaling more than one million euros were made to the left-wing think tank Momentum Institute and the anti-neoliberal Attac Austria, which is against “deregulated financial markets” and neoliberal economic policies.

Donations to the Austrian Nature Conservation Federation varied from 1.6 million euros to 40,000 euros for an effort supporting data-based reporting on climate change.

Women’s rights, housing, integration, and the battle against poverty were among the other topics discussed.

Engelhorn called for more discussion on these matters, saying, “Now, it is up to the political actors to do justice to what this group representative of the Austrian population has embodied.”


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