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Module TAX LAW

Module code: LW451
Credits: 10
Semester: 2
International: Yes
Overview Overview

Tax is a fundamental part of our social and political systems. It is the way that our governments obtain the resources to advance whatever projects they may have. As such, it is what makes politics (and particularly democratic politics) possible. Without tax, there would be no need to argue about public education, or transport, or housing. Without tax, there would be no law and order, no courts, no policing. Tax is the foundation on which the modern state, the legal system and the political order is built.

Tax is central to how our society determines who wins and who loses, economically and politically. The tax system plays an essential role in addressing economic inequalities – or leaving those inequalities unaddressed. Tax is thus closely tied up with important philosophical questions, about equality and social justice. We impose different taxes on different people, depending on their income, their wealth, their family status, their choices about work and leisure activities. Each of these tax differences reflects a value judgment, and a contestable political choice to impose burdens on some, and relieve burdens on others.

The tax system is also a key tool through which, as a society, we express approval or disapproval of particular behaviours, and indeed seek to change those behaviours. This is a function of many other parts of the law also, perhaps most obviously the criminal law. However the criminal law is a blunt tool for addressing many behaviours that we might want to modify, so we turn to tax for a more nuanced regulatory response. Think about the high taxes imposed on cigarettes and fuel-inefficient vehicles, or the tax reliefs for pension contributions and nursing care. Through imposing or relieving taxes, we make particular options more or less attractive, and thereby (hopefully) lead some people to choose the options that we, as a society, prefer.

Tax also plays a central role in managing the wider economy: ideally helping to ‘smooth’ demand through the cycle of economic boom and bust; in practice often exacerbating it as politicians compete to offer the biggest tax cuts to voters. We rely on tax to ensure our international competitiveness, offering low corporation tax rates and (perhaps?) sweetheart deals to international businesses to attract inward investment. In so doing, we face challenges from other countries, who perceive our tax policies as unfairly undermining their tax bases, ‘stealing’ their taxes and/or their businesses.

Perhaps the most important reason to think about tax law, however, is that tax is everywhere. More than criminal law, or constitutional law, or even employment law, tax law has pervasive impacts on our daily lives. Very few of us have been arrested or prosecuted, but we have all paid taxes. The state has never restrained my physical liberty, but it picks my pocket on a daily basis. Tax is a – perhaps the – key relationship that we all have with the states under which we live. It is therefore important to think critically about the laws through which that relationship is expressed, about how they work, why they are the way they are, and how they might be different. That is what we are hoping to do in this module.

Module Content: Topics covered in any given year may include:

Interdisciplinary perspectives on tax law: efficiency, fairness, stability

Institutional aspects of tax law: the making of fiscal policy and the interpretation of tax statutes

Income tax and progressivity: taxation and inequality

Taxation and the family: feminist perspectives on income tax

Corporation Tax

Taxing Capital and Taxing Wealth

Value Added Tax

Environmental Taxes: Using taxes to pursue social policy

International Taxation: the challenge of international tax avoidance

Any aspect of this module may be changed in any given academic year, subject to the discretion of the module lecturer.

Open Learning Outcomes
Open Teaching & Learning methods
Open Assessment
Open Autumn Supplementals/Resits
Open Timetable
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