Marlene is inheriting thousands and thousands. She needs the taxman to take it away.

The Engelhorn household’s multibillion-dollar fortune originated with Friedrich Engelhorn, who about 150 years in the past in Germany based BASF, one of many world’s largest chemical firms. One other household firm, Boehringer Mannheim, which produced prescription drugs and medical diagnostic gear, was bought to Roche for $US11 billion in 1997.

‘There’s no want for one more basis.What’s actually wanted is structural change.’

Marlene Engelhorn

As a partial inheritor to that fortune, Engelhorn grew up in a mansion in an elegant a part of Vienna. She attended French-language colleges, describing herself because the form of scholar who was “correcting grammar errors once I heard them.” She performed soccer with boys and browse voraciously. She mentioned she lacked any consciousness of sophistication privilege.

When she noticed associates dwelling in small appartments, she questioned why they didn’t select to dwell in a giant home with a backyard, which is “a lot nicer.”

“Privilege actually provides you a really, very slender view of the world,” she mentioned.

At college in Vienna, Engelhorn’s perspective started to broaden.

She volunteered with gay-rights teams and grew within the interconnection of racial, gender and financial discrimination.

‘Simply go play’

In early 2020, as Engelhorn sat in a café in Switzerland, the place she had gone to see her grandmother on her 93rd birthday, an accountant instructed her that upon her grandmother’s loss of life, she would inherit many thousands and thousands of euros.

He instructed her to take pleasure in herself. “He mentioned, ‘That is simply to be spent,’” Engelhorn recalled. “Like, ‘Simply go play.’”

However to her, the information was extra disconcerting than a trigger for pleasure, spurring a tormented reckoning about her place in society.

“I used to be a part of the issue,” she mentioned she remembered considering. “I’m very woke and all, however now: What do I do with all these fairly ideas?”

As she regarded for recommendation, she entered the orbit of teams of pro-tax millionaires, whose members meet in particular person or on video calls to debate their privileges — and the best way to get the state to strip them away.

Engelhorn on the activist occasion in Amsterdam. The inflatable subsequent to her is supposed to symbolize “the elephant within the room” of tax justice. Credit score:New York Occasions

Among the members name the teams, which embrace Useful resource Era and Patriotic Millionaires, a “protected house” the place they’ll open up about what they name the “cash story” — an sincere account of the actual origins of their social standing. They acknowledge the crimes typically on the coronary heart of their household’s wealth and analyse the sexist and racist parts which may have contributed to it.

Maybe most significantly, the members are anticipated to share how they’re engaged in what they sometimes time period “reparations” to society.

A few of these teams emerged up to now 20 years or so, however just lately, their memberships have expanded, pushed by what Engelhorn calls “subsequent gens of wealth” who’ve a unique strategy than lots of their mother and father. As a substitute of making an attempt to provide away a part of their inheritance, they’re now asking how it’s attainable they inherited a lot to start with.

‘Wealthy youngsters golf equipment’

Newspapers have mocked a few of the language of those teams, calling it sententious and self-reverential, and Engelhorn complained that some scornful press ridiculed them as “wealthy youngsters golf equipment.”

She credit the teams for serving to her realise what may very well be carried out in another way about wealth redistribution. If she had not encountered them, she mentioned, “I may need additionally simply settled with the established order.”

Which is straightforward to do, she famous, “when you may actually afford to not care.”


After becoming a member of a number of of those teams, Engelhorn final yr co-founded one other one for Central Europe, Tax Me Now, described on its web site as “an initiative of rich people who find themselves actively dedicated to tax justice.”

Its coverage aim is to implement or improve inheritance and wealth taxes (Austria, the place Engelhorn lives, abolished its inheritance tax in 2008).

The variety of nations within the Organisation for Financial Cooperation and Improvement that taxed web wealth dropped from 12 in 1990 to 5 in 2020. Whereas the next variety of OECD international locations tax inheritances, the quantity collected accounts for 0.5 per cent of all taxes there.

To Engelhorn, the tax legal guidelines imply that it’s not simply enormous quantities of wealth which might be handed down; it’s energy, too, being distributed in a dynastic manner. Taxing wealth, she mentioned, would serve the twin objective of accelerating public assets and taking away political sway from individuals who haven’t democratically earned it.

“I don’t assume that I ought to be in energy or in cost the way in which that I may very well be if I take advantage of my wealth accordingly,” she mentioned.

‘I don’t assume that I ought to be in energy or in cost the way in which that I may very well be if I take advantage of my wealth accordingly.’

Marlene Engelhorn

After her speech in Amsterdam, Engelhorn was given an award for her activism.

“Of all of the wealthy individuals” who had spoken on the occasion, Engelhorn was the one who spoke in regards to the difficulty of taxation with the best ardour and honesty, in keeping with Djaffar Shalchi, founding father of Millionaires for Humanity. “She is for me No. 1,” he mentioned.

No matter Engelhorn’s talking talents, she has helped generate curiosity within the problems with wealth and inheritance taxes. She just lately printed her first e-book, “Geld,” or “Cash,” about wealth redistribution. And ever since her first public declaration of her need for her inheritance to be taxed away, she has attracted consideration in German-language media.

It’s not the primary time a member of Engelhorn’s household has made headlines with tax-related points. When her great-uncle and archaeology donor Curt Engelhorn bought Boehringer Mannheim, German tax authorities didn’t gather any cash as a result of he had beforehand moved the corporate’s authorized seat overseas.

‘Tax justice’

Marlene Engelhorn’s a number of radio and TV appearances have resulted in dozens of individuals reaching out to ask her straight for monetary assist. She mentioned it wrecks her to say no, however she believes it shouldn’t be on her to resolve who will get her cash.

“I would really like tax justice to take this not possible choice off my fingers,” she mentioned.

She has dedicated to giving freely at the least 90 per cent of her inheritance and needs it to go to the state — however solely within the type of a tax, not a donation. “A authorities who gained’t use wealth taxes gained’t get a present similar to that,” she mentioned.


Not all millionaires share her ardour for taxing wealth.

Ansgar John Brenninkmeijer, inheritor to a vogue fortune, interrupted Engelhorn when she was onstage in Amsterdam to ask her angrily if she knew what the wealth tax within the Netherlands was.

“We do have a wealth tax,” he mentioned. “It’s 1.6 per cent,” he added, referring to a Dutch tax on the worth of an individual’s financial savings and investments.

To Engelhorn, that was a ridiculously low quantity.

However later that day, she mentioned it shouldn’t be as much as individuals like Brenninkmeijer — or herself — to say what’s a good fee.

“It’s not a wealthy child’s place to say,” she mentioned, “what the tax ought to be.”

This text initially appeared in The New York Occasions.

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