in Davos, millionaires want to be taxed on their assets

The World Economic Forum is being held in Davos from January 15 to 20. Today, Marlene Engelhorn, heiress to the BASF company, a somewhat unusual heiress, is the “eco” guest of franceinfo. She asks to be taxed more, came to Davos to make it known, and is going to spend a fortune for the common good.

franceinfo : Marlene Engelhorn, you are Austrian, you are 31 years old and you are an heiress. Two years ago you received a very large sum of money. Can you tell us ?

Marlene Engelhorn: I received this money a year and a half ago and of course I was delighted to have access to this money, to this heritage.

How much did you get?

I can’t say the exact amount because it not only concerns me, but also my family. I try to be as transparent as possible. But like all “super-rich”, I am not perfectly transparent and I am embarrassed not to be.

You received less than 50 million euros, but more than 20, roughly.

Yes, and I am currently redistributing 25 million euros through an initiative of a civic assembly.

In your country, Austria, there is no inheritance tax, is that right?

Yes, we don’t pay inheritance tax.

And how much tax have you paid since then?

When I buy something, I pay the taxes. Other than that, nothing. I don’t work for a salary either, so I don’t pay these taxes either.

So you pay absolutely no taxes.

No, but I would be proud to pay these taxes.

You arranged to meet us outside the Davos Congress Center, at the shopping center cafeteria. Why come to Davos and stay on the sidelines?

Well, I’m not invited inside. I would love to come in if I were invited. I’m coming for the “Tax Me Now” collective. We are several rich people, who have received large assets, and who have come together to argue that we must tax the rich too. It’s not just people who work who have to pay taxes, the rich too, especially because they have the money to pay it. And so, we are trying to say that inside Davos, behind closed doors in a not very accessible way, in Switzerland, there are decisions that are taken in a non-democratic way. And if we want to be really honest also with the idea of ​​”rebuilding trust and the future”, which is the theme of Davos this week, we must open the doors and we must invite those who are affected by these decisions in a way democratic.

So that everyone understands, there is a badge system. And if you don’t have the badge, you can’t get inside Davos. The Congress Center is guarded by police, were you checked when you came to this interview?

Yes, on the way here, the police checked us. We were looked in every pocket to make sure we weren’t going to be a violent disturbance or anything.

And why are you coming to Davos? What is the word that you come to convey? “Should I be taxed”?

“You have to tax me”, but not only me. It’s not a private problem, it’s a public problem. When large assets can really hide from taxation, then we have a problem of global inequality, and also national inequalities. Today, we have the Oxfam report, which showed that the five richest people – all men – have doubled their fortune in the last three years, while 5 billion people in the planet have lost 20 billion euros.

You still show that you are not alone in this fight. There are several renowned billionaires, starting with Warren Buffett, who has been speaking out for years about taxing the richest and asking to be taxed. Why isn’t it moving faster?

First of all, we really need political courage. I don’t see that, at least not in Austria. I don’t know too much about the political scene in France, but I think it’s the same problem everywhere.

Emmanuel Macron who is in power has abolished the wealth tax.

Well, there you go. The thing is that we have people who have large assets, who have disproportionate influence and who can, through this influence, through lobbying, affect political decisions, especially behind closed doors. Not only in Davos, but also in every country, every day, every week of the year. So we see that the influence of the rich is reflected in taxes which in fact exclude wealth, which exclude the rich, even though they could very well pay taxes. The model that Oxfam presents is a model that is very easily payable. But, if we give up heritage, if we have to pay taxes, then we give up power. The rich, who are very conservative, do not want to give up their power.

With inflation, with the climate crisis and the massive public investments necessary, we are still seeing the idea of ​​a “climate” wealth tax return to the public debate. There are economists, starting with the Frenchman Gabriel Zucman, who are calling for the establishment of a global tax on heritage, a tax of 2% of heritage. According to him, it would bring in 200 billion euros per year globally. What do you think ?

This demonstrates very well that experts and specialists agree on the subject of wealth taxation. And what’s more, we also see that the heritage is there, the wealth is there, the money is there. We could really get into the fight against crises and we don’t. And why ? Because there are a few who prefer to keep their comfort level and power, instead of sharing their resources with the world. While knowing that without global cooperation, without globalization, without the work of all the people who already pay their taxes, there is no possibility of creating large assets.

I have the impression that you have given up, that you have lost hope of one day being taxed at a fair level.

Oh no, I haven’t given up! No, no, I have not lost hope, on the contrary. But we must not wait for governments. You don’t have to wait to make decisions yourself. And if I want to be taxed and see my wealth redistributed in a democratic way, then it’s up to me to do it apparently.

Ah, that’s what you’ve decided, are you the one who’s going to do it?

Exactly, and I want to redistribute in a democratic way, that is to say I offer heritage and decision-making power completely to this civic assembly which will be created. I pay for everything. Everyone will be paid for their work, for the organization.

You are going to organize the way in which your fortune, your heritage is going to be redistributed, is that right?

Yes, we decided with the Forsythe Institute to create a “civic assembly”. There is a national register with all the addresses of residents of Austria who are over 16 years old. We sent 10,000 invitations to participate in this civic assembly. People can respond, they then receive a questionnaire, which they share only with the Forsythe Institute. I don’t see any of this data. Then they will choose 50 people who will represent the Austrian population. And these 50 people will have the duty to discuss the question of distribution of heritage and wealth in the population, things that could change, ideas that could be developed. I am offering the 25 million euros as a budget, so that this group of people can make real concrete decisions and carry out projects. I don’t know what they will decide. We expect the decision at the beginning of June and we will see.

It’s a radical decision.

It’s just democratic in fact.

source site-32