Mark Bou Mansour ■ Citizens assembly redistributing heiress’s fortune supports Tax Justice Network with €520,000


Citizens assembly redistributing heiress’s fortune supports Tax Justice Network with €520,000

The Tax Justice Network has been selected as one of 80 organisations to receive support from the Good Council for Redistribution – a citizens’ assembly established by Austrian heiress and activist Marlene Engelhorn to redistribute €25 million of her inherited fortune.1 The €520,000 from the Good Council to the Tax Justice Network announced today will support our work to research global tax abuse and equip governments and people with the solutions to tackle it.2

The Good Council, established earlier this year by Marlene Engelhorn, consists of 50 randomly selected people and is reflective of the Austrian population by gender, origin, income. Over the course of six weekends, the council met to discuss and hear from experts on wealth redistribution and its impact on politics and society, before taking joint decisions on which organisations to support with distributions and by how much. Engelhorn had no decision-making authority in the council’s decision.3

Alex Cobham, chief executive at the Tax Justice Network, said:

“The Tax Justice Network is honoured by the trust placed in us by the Good Council. We celebrate the underlying decision of Marlene Engelhorn to empower the Council to redistribute her inherited wealth. As Marlene Engelhorn says4, ‘Wealth is never an individual achievement. Wealth is always created by society… How can we use unequally distributed wealth to change the very system of its distribution?’

“The important new core funding announced today will support the Tax Justice Network to do just that. Tax is our social superpower, allowing us all to live longer, healthier and happier lives together. The Tax Justice Network delivers research and advocacy to support national and international efforts to overcome the tax abuse of multinational companies and wealthy individuals, through the implementation of effective, progressive taxation and financial regulation. These funds from the Good Council for Redistribution will underpin this work in the coming years. Key priorities include the introduction of wealth taxes around the world, and the globally inclusive negotiation of a UN framework convention on tax to allow all countries to curb international tax abuse.”

Marlene Engelhorn, winner of the Human Act Award5, founded the Tax Me Now campaign in 2021, an initiative of wealthy people in German-speaking countries that actively campaigns for higher taxes on the wealthy.6 The Tax Me Now campaign has worked alongside the similar US-based Patriotic Millionaires campaign and the international Millionaires for Humanity to advocate for tax justice.7

The Good Council had made clear that its primary focus is systematic redistribution, rather than charitable or philanthropic giving, drawing awareness to the fact that large fortunes, even when used for philanthropy, are created when governments fail to curb inequality in society to begin with, and to emphasise its aim of addressing the causes rather than just the symptoms of wealth inequality.8

The council’s announcement comes on the heels of unprecedented momentum for wealth taxes on the superrich.

Last week, US Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, along with 14 other US lawmakers, published a letter urging President Biden and US Treasury Secretary Yellen to support Brazil’s historic G20 initiative to establish a global minimum tax on the superrich.9 Brazil is expected to push for a declaration of intention at an upcoming G20 meeting in July on the proposal, which has already received support from leading economists, global civil leaders and a number of countries, including France. The Biden administration support for a global minimum tax on multinational corporations was 2021 was instrumental for making the proposal a reality.

Earlier this year, the UN tax committee made history by agreeing to develop a model law for wealth taxes.10 The UN guidance will provide countries with a blueprint to implement wealth taxes at home, giving countries both the technical know-how and political backing to independently press on with taxing the wealth of the richest members of their societies.

The Tax Justice Network’s research exposing the colossal scale of global tax abuse by wealthy individuals, as well as by multinational corporations, and the proliferation of financial secrecy used by the superrich, has been often cited by policymakers, researchers and international bodies taking the charge on reforming wealth taxes and tax rules more widely. This includes in negotiations currently underway at the UN to establish a UN framework convention on tax11, which would deliver the biggest progressive shakeup to global tax rules in history. The ‘zero draft’ of the terms of reference for the full negotiations was published earlier this month, and states that the framework convention should include a commitment to “effective taxation of high-net worth individuals”. 12


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Notes to editor

  1. The Good Council announcement page is available here.
  2. Learn more about the Tax Justice Network’s work and our key priorities here. An external evaluation of the Tax Justice Network’s 20 years of work is available here.
  3. More information about the Good Council is available here.
  4. Read Marlene Engelhorn’s mission statement here.
  5. The Human Act Award is awarded by the Human Act Foundation to change-makers who are dedicated to action on the world’s most pressing issues. Read more here.
  6. More information about Marlene Engelhorn is available here. More information about Tax Me Now is available here.
  7. Read more about these campaigns 2024 public letter to global leaders at Davos to tax the superrich. Learn more about Patriotic Millionaires here. Learn more about Millionaires for Humanity here.
  8. See note 3.
  9. Read more about the US lawmakers’ letter here.
  10. More information about the UN wealth tax guidance available here.
  11. More information about UN negotiations on a UN tax convention available here.
  12. The ‘Zero Draft Terms of Reference for a United Nations Framework Convention on International Tax Cooperation’, issued by the Bureau of 20 countries steering the negotiations, is available here.