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Austrian heiress plans to give away £21.5m fortune and is inviting suggestions

She is all set to launch a citizen’s council which will meet for six weekends from March until June and work on proposals to distribute the wealth

Maroosha Muzaffar
Thursday 11 January 2024 09:38 GMT
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Screengrab. Marlene Engelhorn
Screengrab. Marlene Engelhorn (WDR aktuell / YouTube. Screengrab)

An Austrian-German heiress is planning on giving away her €25m (£21.5m) fortune that she inherited from her grandmother.

Marlene Engelhorn, 31, has now sought suggestions from citizens on how best to distribute the money.

Ms Engelhorn said “€25m can be redistributed because the state does not redistribute it. I have this money because it is not taxed”, during a press conference on Wednesday.

“I have this money because the government has failed to fulfill its mandate to ensure that wealth is distributed in society in such a way that it doesn’t end up unequally in my hands just because I’m in this world, in this particular family, with this surname.”

Ms Engelhorn inherited the money from her family, who owns the chemical giant BASF. She has been fighting for years for a more equitable tax system in Austria.

A Citizens’ Council will now be established to determine the allocation of funds, Euro News reported on Wednesday.

“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.”

In 2008, Austria eliminated the inheritance tax, hence becoming one of the few European countries without such a tax or death duties.

Austrians interested in participating in Ms Engelhorn’s citizens’ initiative – referred to as the Good Council for Redistribution – can register either online or by phone. From the original group of 10,000 Austrians, all aged over 16, 50 participants will be selected. There will also be 15 substitutes in case of some dropouts.

This citizen’s council will meet for six weekends from March until June and work on proposals to distribute the wealth.

“If politicians don’t do their job and redistribute, then I have to redistribute my wealth myself,” she said.

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

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