LL4CG      Half Unit
Tax Policy and Design

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Andy Summers


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time) and University of Pennsylvania Law School LLM Visiting Students. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is suitable for students from any social science background, including but not only Law. No previous study of taxation is required. Some prior familiarity with tax concepts is advantageous but not essential.


This course has a limited number of places and demand is typically high. This may mean that you’re not able to get a place on this course.

Course content

This course provides an introduction to the evaluation and design of tax policies using a variety of disciplinary perspectives including economics, philosophy, and political science, as well as law. It addresses questions such as: What is a ‘fair’ tax? What makes a tax efficient or inefficient? How do people respond to taxes? What can be done to improve tax compliance? What are the political influences on the tax policymaking process?

The aim of the course is to develop a ‘toolkit’ for thinking about taxes that enables students to critically assess existing tax policies and develop proposals for reform. We will use a range of examples from across the tax system including taxes on individuals and companies. Most examples will be drawn from the UK context but the principles are of wide application to other developed tax systems.

The seminar topics are: (1)  Approaches to tax policy; (2) Fairness and taxation; (3) Tax and property rights; (4) Tax, public provision, and market failure; (5) Key economic concepts; (6) Behavioural responses to tax; (7) Choices of tax base; (8) Setting tax rates; (9) Tax administration and compliance; (10) Tax and the political process.


This course will have two hours of teaching content each week in Autumn Term. There will be a Reading Week in Week 6 of Autumn Term.

Formative coursework

Students will receive formative feedback on one 1500 word essay.

Indicative reading

Devereux, M. et al (2021), Taxing Profit in a Global Economy. Oxford University Press.

Kay, J., & and King, M. (1990), The British tax system. Oxford University Press.

Kleven, H. et al (2019), Taxation and Migration: Evidence and Policy Implications’ The Journal of Economic Perspectives

Meade, J. et al (1978), The Structure and Reform of Direct Taxation: The Meade Report

Adam, S. & Miller, H. (2020), ‘Principles and practice of taxing small business’ in The Dynamics of Taxation. Hart Publishing

Mirrlees, J. et al (2011), Tax by design: the Mirrlees review. Oxford University Press.

Murphy, L. & Nagel, T. (2002), The Myth of Ownership: Taxes and Justice. Oxford University Press.

Oates, W. & Schwab, R. (2015), The Window Tax: A Case Study in Excess Burden. The Journal of Economic Perspectives

Slemrod, J., (2013), Buenas notches: lines and notches in tax system design

Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, Distributive Justice


Essay (100%, 8000 words).

Key facts

Department: Law School

Total students 2022/23: 30

Average class size 2022/23: 28

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills