An Austrian-German activist, Marlene Engelhorn, aged 32, has made headlines by announcing her decision to relinquish her $27 million inheritance. The fortune, inherited from her grandmother, places her in a position of considerable wealth. However, rather than holding onto it, Engelhorn has opted to redistribute it as part of her commitment to combating wealth inequality.
Living in Vienna and known for her advocacy work, Engelhorn co-founded the Taxmenow campaign, which aims to address disparities in wealth distribution. Her decision to give away her inheritance is a significant step in aligning her actions with her beliefs. Instead of keeping the wealth for herself, she plans to place it under the control of the "Good Council for Redistribution."
This council, comprising 50 individuals aged 16 and above, will oversee the redistribution process. To ensure representation from various demographics, 10,000 addresses in Austria were randomly selected to receive invitations to apply for membership. Applications will involve completing a short survey, with a research institute then selecting 50 individuals to form the council.
Engelhorn's motivation for giving away her inheritance stems from her belief that wealth should not be determined by birthright. She sees her situation as a reflection of systemic issues, where individuals can accumulate significant wealth without contributing to society in a meaningful way.
Austrian Heiress Donates $27M Fortune
She said, "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." By redistributing her fortune, she hopes to challenge this notion and promote a more equitable society.
The council will have the authority to allocate the inheritance to various institutions, both within Austria and internationally. However, there are strict guidelines in place to ensure the funds are used responsibly. Activities deemed inhumane or unconstitutional are off-limits, as are donations to profit organisations. Instead, the focus will be on supporting initiatives that align with the goal of wealth redistribution and societal well-being.
Who is Marlene Engelhorn?
Marlene Engelhorn born in 1992, is an Austrian activist and journalist of German descent renowned for her advocacy work in two key areas: inheritance tax reform and LGBTQ+ rights. Engelhorn's academic background includes studies in German language and literature at the University of Vienna, although she did not complete her degree.
As the founder of Tax Me Now, a German initiative dedicated to lobbying for higher taxes on the wealthy, Engelhorn has been at the forefront of efforts to address wealth inequality. In recognition of her contributions to the discourse surrounding wealth taxation in German-speaking Europe, Engelhorn was honoured with the prestigious Human Act Award in 2022. Beyond her work in taxation reform, Engelhorn is also known for her activism in the realm of LGBTQ+ rights.