A female descendant of a prominent European business family is relinquishing a portion of her inheritance to 50 unknown individuals to decide how to utilize over $27 million. The reason? It is her method of combating economic disparity.
Marlene Engelhorn, age 31, thinks that the Austrian government should implement taxes on wealth and inheritance. However, since they have not done so, she has decided to take matters into her own hands.
She has invited a random sample of 10,000 individuals from Austria to participate in a survey. From the respondents, she will select 50 individuals from diverse backgrounds who she believes accurately reflect the population of Austria.
on the website of the project.
According to BBC News, Engelhorn received a large sum of money upon the passing of her grandmother in 2022. She is a descendant of Friedrich Engelhorn, the founder of BASF, a pharmaceutical company based in Germany. The exact amount she inherited from her grandmother, who was estimated to be worth $4.2 billion by Forbes, is unknown. However, Engelhorn, who resides in Austria, stated her intention to donate approximately 90% of her inheritance before her grandmother’s death.
Engelhorn holds the belief that a large number of inheritors do not contribute a significant portion of their inherited wealth to the betterment of society and instead take advantage of tax exemptions.
Inheritance is seen as a burden on society. It involves being born into a position of power without having to earn it. It also grants access to opportunities that others may never have in their lifetime. Inheritance brings a sense of financial stability that shields one from difficult work, inadequate housing, health issues, and other challenges, according to the author.
Austria’s poverty rate has increased, according to EUROSTAT, an organization that gathers data on EU nations. The country’s poverty risk was 14.80%, approaching its highest level of 15.20% in December 2008.
Engelhorn believes that the family we are born into should not dictate our quality of life. Rather than simply giving money away herself, she expresses concern about the power she would hold and instead wishes for others to assist in redistributing the funds.
The council of 50 will convene for six weekends from March to June to engage in moderated conversations regarding the utilization of her fortune for initiating change. She will cover their expenses for travel and accommodation during the conferences and will also provide compensation.
According to the Guter Rat website, the top 1% of individuals in Austria possess half of the country’s total net wealth. The majority of this group inherited their riches, including Engelhorn.
According to Guter Rat, despite Austria not having any estate, inheritance, or wealth taxes, over two-thirds of Austrians support the implementation of wealth taxes.
Although the United States has implemented these taxes, only a small percentage of individuals are actually subject to estate taxes, which are paid when inheriting wealth. According to the Congressional Budget Office, in 2016, only approximately 5,500 individuals who passed away had estates that were eligible for taxation.
In 2023, the IRS increased the exempt amount from the estate tax to $12.92 million, which is a 7.1% rise from 2022.
A significant number of the most affluent individuals in the United States have committed to the Giving Pledge, an initiative launched in 2010 with 40 members pledging to donate a majority of their wealth towards addressing societal issues. Prominent members include Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Jeff Bezos.