LL4CO      Half Unit
Taxation of Wealth

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Andrew Summers NAB.6.02


This course is available on the MSc in Inequalities and Social Science, MSc in Law and Accounting, Master of Laws and Master of Laws (extended part-time study). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Students must apply through Graduate Course Choice on LSE for You.


This course is suitable for students who have not previously studied taxation. Some prior familiarity with principles of tax design is advantageous but not essential.

Course content

The course examines the taxation of wealth from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives, drawing on research from political theory, economics, social policy and law. The main aims of the course are to explain why wealth taxes currently play a relatively minor role in modern tax systems (compared, for example, with taxes on income), and to evaluate the options for taxing wealth, including: taxes on transfers of wealth; taxes on assets; and taxes on the returns on wealth. The focus is on the UK and US contexts although comparisons are also made with other jurisdictions. 

Part I of the course introduces key debates from across the social sciences relevant to the taxation of wealth. Seminars 1-5 cover: (i) defining and measuring wealth; (ii) inequality and distributive justice; (iii) property rights; (iv) economic perspectives; and (v) social and political perspectives. Part II applies these debates to specific wealth tax policies. Seminars 6-10 cover: (i) taxes on transfers, e.g. inheritance or estate tax, gift tax, comprehensive income tax; (ii) taxes on assets e.g. annual wealth tax, property tax, land-value tax; and (iii) taxes on returns e.g. capital gains tax, capital income tax.


20 hours of seminars in the MT.

There will be a reading week in Week 6 MT.

Formative coursework

Students will receive formative feedback on two essay-plans (comprising 300-word abstract, outline of sub-headings, and bibliography) based on past or sample summative essay titles.

Indicative reading

Atkinson, Inequality: What can be Done? (Harvard University Press 2015); Graetz & Shapiro, Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Fight over Taxing Inherited Wealth (Princeton University Press 2005); Hills et al, Wealth in the UK: Distribution, Accumulation and Policy (OUP 2013); Institute for Fiscal Studies, The Structure and Reform of Direct Taxation: The Meade Report (Allen & Unwin 1978); Institute for Fiscal Studies, Tax by Design: The Mirrlees Review, Vols 1 & 2 (OUP 2011); Murphy and Nagel, The Myth of Ownership: Taxes and Justice (OUP 2002); Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Harvard University Press 2014); Sandford, Taxing Personal Wealth (Allen & Unwin 1971); Scheve & Stasavage, Taxing the Rich: A History of Fiscal Fairness in the United States and Europe (Princeton University Press 2016); Waldron, The Right to Private Property (OUP 1991)


Essay (50%, 3000 words) and essay (50%, 3000 words) in the ST.

For each essay, students will choose a title from a set of options published at the end of the MT.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2016/17: Unavailable

Average class size 2016/17: Unavailable

Controlled access 2016/17: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills