Alan Tait, Economist

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Born: 1 July, 1934, in Edinburgh. Died: 19 October, 2009, in Sandwich, Kent, aged 75.

ALAN Anderson Tait , internationally known as a fiscal economist, was a graduate in political economy from Edinburgh University and began his career in business, but in 1959 he was recommended by his mentors for the post of lecturer in public finance at Trinity College, Dublin .

He took to Ireland and it to him. His artistic skills and interests were stimulated by the famous conversations at Trinity's High Table. Within a few years he was combining a heavy teaching load with giving economic advice to the Irish government and its Confederation of Irish Industry. With his publications, notably a pioneering work, The Taxation of Personal Wealth, and others on the Irish economy, he was soon to become a Fellow of Trinity College. The happy Irish years were crowned by his marrying Susan Somers from Co.Tipperary in 1963.

In 1971 Alan was offered and accepted the chair in money and finance at the University of Strathclyde. His return to his native land seemed to settle his future, with his growing reputation ensuring his advice was sought by the Secretary of State for Scotland. However, the International Monetary Fund had established a fiscal affairs department in the 1960s with the task of encouraging its members, notably those in developing countries, to improve their fiscal systems. The IMF consulted academic specialists on specific fiscal matters but also used them as a source of recruitment.

What began as repeated requests for help turned into an offer of a senior position in Washington. Alan joined the IMF's permanent staff in 1977 and became the organisation's deputy director.

His final promotion was as director of the fund's Geneva office, where he provided the main link with the World Trade Organisation and other Geneva-based UN offices.

His professional reputation as an economist is what he will be best remembered for, not only by public finance specialists but by the officials of many countries that relied on his advice. His broad wisdom, diplomatic skills and exceptional charm commended him to the fund's clients and his colleagues. In particular, his expertise in the analysis of value-added taxation, which extended to a profound knowledge of the practical problems of its introduction, was widely appreciated, though it called for an exhausting itinerary, covering countries as far apart as South Korea and Mexico as well as eastern European countries.

He continued to publish widely on a wide range of public finance issues, but his locus classicus lies in Value Added Tax: International Practice and Problems (1988), still widely accepted as a prime source .

John Stuart Mill remarked that to be a good economist required one to be more than an economist – a thought that reappeared in the work of John Maynard Keynes work. The IMF certainly benefited from Alan's broad wisdom as an economist and his exceptional charm and wit, which commended him to its clients.

Alan's intention on leaving George Heriot's school was to accept a place at The Edinburgh College of Art. Though his studies and professional life took him in another direction, in his retirement he displayed his remarkable talents as an artist and his many friends treasure the results. It was an inspiration and consolation to them and his family to have his sketch of the parish church of St Clement, Sandwich, as the frontispiece of the programme for his thanksgiving service.

He is survived by his wife , Susan, his son, Anthony, and his two granddaughters.