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George Break


George F. Break

Professor of Economics, Emeritus

UC Berkeley

1920 – 2009


George F. Break, an emeritus professor of economics and an authority on public finance, died of heart failure at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley on March 13, 2009. He was 88.

Break, who conducted influential empirical research on the effects of income taxation on work incentives, intergovernmental relations, and tax reform in the United States and Canada, chaired the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Economics from 1969 to 1973. He also served on numerous campus advisory committees, and in 1990 was honored with the Berkeley Citation, one of Berkeley’s highest honors.

Born June 10, 1920, in London, Ontario, Break served in a meteorological office attached to the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II and was a flying officer with its meteorological division in 1945. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in economics at Berkeley in 1951, joining the Department of Economics as an assistant professor the same year. Break retired from the faculty in 1990.

The best known of Break’s 11 books are Public Finance (1961), which he wrote with Earl Rolph, and Federal Tax Reform: The Impossible Dream? (1975), authored with Joseph Pechman, which served as a foundation for the U.S. Tax Reform Act of 1986. Break also wrote Financing Government in a Federal System (1980), edited two books, and wrote 74 articles or book chapters.

Break was president of the National Tax Association from 1982 to 1984 and was honored in 1996 with the association’s Daniel M. Holland Medal for outstanding contributions to the study and practice of public finance. A member of the American Economics Association, National Tax Association, and Canadian Economics Association, he was appointed by California Governor George Deukmejian to the state’s Tax Reform Advisory Commission, whose 1985 report suggested reducing corporate and individual income taxes and broadening the sales tax by including food, medical care, and household utilities. Break also assisted the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Analysis, testified before congressional committees, consulted for various tax agencies within the United States and Canadian governments, and evaluated the tax systems of Greece and Jamaica.

Break was preceded in death by his wife, Helen, who died in 2007. He is survived by several nephews and nieces.


              Kathleen Maclay                                                                                             2009

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