Mega-rich renew call on global leaders at Davos to ‘tax our extreme wealth’

Austrian Marlene Engelhorn, who inherited from her family who owns the Germany’s chemical giant BASF, poses with a placard reading “Tax the rich!” at the entrance of the Congress center on the opening of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, on January 15, 2024. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

Fabrice Coffrini | Afp | Getty Images

More than 250 billionaires and millionaires on Wednesday reiterated their call on elected representatives of the world’s leading economies to introduce higher taxes on the very richest in society.

In an open letter to political leaders gathered at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the rich signatories said they wished to deliver a clear message: “Tax our extreme wealth.”

“We are surprised that you have failed to answer a simple question that we have been asking for three years: when will you tax extreme wealth?” the letter said.

“Our request is simple: we ask you to tax us, the very richest in society. This will not fundamentally alter our standard of living, nor deprive our children, nor harm our nations’ economic growth. But it will turn extreme and unproductive private wealth into an investment for our common democratic future.”

The signatories of the letter, entitled “Proud To Pay More,” span 17 countries and include Disney heir Abigail Disney, screenwriter Simon Pegg and Valerie Rockefeller, an heir to the famed U.S. family.

It comes shortly after Oxfam said that the five richest men globally have more than doubled their vast wealth since 2020 and warned that the world could have its first trillionaire within a decade.

At the same time, the charity said on Monday that, if the current trends persist, poverty will not be eradicated for another 229 years.

“Billionaires are wielding their extreme wealth to accumulate political power and influence, simultaneously undermining democracy and the global economy,” said Brian Cox, a signatory to the Proud to Pay More letter and an actor who played fictional billionaire Logan Roy in HBO’s “Succession.”

“It’s long past time to act. If our elected officials refuse to address this concentration of money and power, the consequences will be dire,” Cox added.

What is the World Economic Forum?

A new poll conducted by Survation on behalf of “Patriotic Millonaires”, which was published alongside the open letter, found that some of the world’s wealthiest people support higher taxes on their income.

The survey polled over 2,300 respondents in wealthy G20 nations who each hold more than $1 million in investable assets, excluding their homes. These assets put them among the richest 5%.

The survey found that 74% of respondents back higher taxes on wealth to address the cost-of-living crisis and to improve public services, while three quarters of respondents support a 2% wealth tax on billionaires, and more than half (54%) think that extreme wealth concentration is a threat to democracy.

“Throughout history, pitchforks were the inevitable consequence of extreme discontent, but today, the masses are turning to populism, which is on the rise throughout the world. It is happening here,” Abigail Disney said in a statement.

“We already know the solution to protect our institutions and stabilize our country: it’s taxing extreme wealth. What we lack is the political fortitude to do it. Even millionaires and billionaires like me are saying it’s time. The elites gathering in Davos must take this crisis seriously,” she added.