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Dissertation

Where a student can show evidence that he or she is capable of a long dissertation of 12,000 words and wishes to submit such a long dissertation, this may replace two of the electives, subject to agreement on a topic by an MSc in Taxation course director which will depend on an assessment of the student's capacity to produce a long piece of written work and whether a suitable topic and supervisor can be found. A course director must be satisfied that the dissertation topic is of sufficient scope and depth to be appropriate to replace two courses. The director shall make the decision in consultation with the other directors.

The long dissertation may cover material not covered expressly by any other course on the programme or may build on material covered in another course within the programme provided it has the necessary element of originality, analysis and independent research.  A teacher on the MSc in Taxation must have the suitable knowledge to supervise the dissertation before it can be accepted as an appropriate topic. The topic must, however, be sufficiently different from that chosen for the Tax Research Round Table extended essay to avoid overlap and unfair reduction of burden. It may not be a dissertation, or part of a dissertation, that has been or is being submitted for any other degree in Oxford or elsewhere.

The demand for supervision for such dissertations may exceed the supply, especially from particular Faculty members, and where this is the case, a potential supervisor may elect to supervise only those dissertations which he or she judges most promising. Although in principle the option of offering a dissertation is open to all Taxation students, therefore, in practice, it is possible that some students who wish to offer a dissertation will be unable to do so, as a suitable supervisor with spare capacity cannot be found. 

Optional for these programmes: MSc in Taxation (Part Time)

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EU Tax Law

Elective


The course EU Tax Law will enable students to develop an in-depth understanding of European Union (EU) tax law and policy in the global context. This course will provide a comprehensive overview of the key aspects necessary for understanding how EU law affects investors and other economically active persons and entities within the EU and from third countries; as well as demonstrating how the EU’s tax policies are influenced by and shape global tax developments.

The programme will include the study of:

•The primary law of the European Union and the effects it has on Member States’ direct taxation through the fundamental freedoms. This part will focus on landmark cases and several case studies which illustrate the impact of EU law on national tax systems, including exit taxation and anti-avoidance cases. Both the examples of the application of the freedoms within the territory of the EU/EEA and in third-country scenarios will be addressed. 

•The interaction between the international and European legal order in the tax context. The relationship between various types of legal instruments will be covered, including possible tensions between the Anti-Avoidance Directive and bilateral tax treaties and the application of the OECD’s Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting in the EU.

•EU fiscal state aid. This part will offer an overview of fundamental features of the EU fiscal state aid regime, its impact on tax rulings by EU Member States and an in-depth inquiry into the Apple case.

•The EU secondary legislation which facilitates cross-border capital flows (the Parent-Subsidiary Directive and the Interest and Royalties Directive), tackles abusive tax practices (the Anti-Avoidance Directive), stimulates administrative cooperation (the Directives on Administrative Cooperation in Tax Matters) and introduces an obligation on Member States to arrive at a resolution of all disputes that originate in bilateral tax treaties (Directive on Tax Dispute Resolution) will be discussed.

•Non-binding measures (the so-called “soft law”), including those aimed at tackling “harmful tax competition” and the promotion of good tax governance in third countries through the “black” and “grey” lists of non-cooperative jurisdictions. 

•Current issues in EU tax law and ongoing policy work, including the proposed harmonisation of corporate tax base and the introduction of formulary apportionment (Directive on Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base), and the initiative on the taxation of the digitalised economy.

The course is taught by Dr Anzhela Cédelle, Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation and others.

Optional for these programmes: MSc in Taxation (Part Time)

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Principles of International Taxation

Core Course


The Principles of International Taxation core course introduces students to international taxation. It is also a foundation course for subsequent international tax courses.

The course includes the following topics:

  • Introduction to international tax law and state practice in claiming tax jurisdiction
  • History of international tax law
  • Principles for taxing international business income
  • Causes of international double taxation and methods of relief
  • Introduction to tax treaties, and the OECD Model Tax Convention
  • Transnational enforcement of tax liabilities
  • Settlement of international fiscal disputes
  • Tax havens, harmful tax competition and cooperation amongst revenue authorities
  • The future of international tax law

The course is taught by Visiting Professor Philip Baker QC, Professor Tsilly Dagan, Professor Michael Devereux and Professor John Vella

Compulsory for these programmes: MSc in Taxation (Part Time)

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Tax & Human Rights

The Tax and Human Rights course examines tax issues from a human rights perspective. The course is divided into two. In the first – and main – part, the course examines in depth the issues relating to the provision of adequate protection for taxpayers as a balance to the powers given to revenue authorities in different countries. The focus is on EU/Council of Europe countries. The protections under Community law and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) will be examined in detail, but much of the analysis will be relevant to other countries too. In the second part, the course will examine a new and growing literature which argues for an increased role for human rights in setting tax policy and in combating abusive tax practices, particularly by large businesses in the context of corporate social responsibility programmes and codes as well as in relation to regulation.

The course is taught by Visiting Professor Philip Baker QC, Professor John Vella and Professor Judith Freedman

Optional for these programmes: MSc in Taxation (Part Time)

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Tax and Accounting

Elective


The Tax and Accounting course will explore the relationship between accounting and taxation. We shall discuss issues such as the following:

  • Do tax and commercial accounts have the same objectives?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of following financial or commercial accounts (book) without modification for tax purposes?
  • What will be the effect of developments in accounting standards on the taxation debate?
  • What was the impact of the recent banking crisis on taxable profits and on the debate about fair value accounting?

The course is taught by Professor Jennifer Blouin, University of Pennsylvania and Professor Mike Devereux. 

Optional for these programmes: MSc in Taxation (Part Time)

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Tax and Public Policy

Elective


The Tax and Public Policy course provides students with the essential tools to assess tax policy, with a particular emphasis on economic analysis. After discussing where economic analysis fits in the complete toolbox for assessing tax policy, students will be taught the essential tools from economic analysis in some detail. Having equipped students with these tools, the course then guides them through some fundamental issues in tax policy design. A number of cases studies are using during the course.

This is an elective course. Issues of tax policy will be considered in other compulsory and elective courses on the MSc. However, this course will cover these various issues in tax policy in a coherent and more detailed manner and with a greater emphasis on economic analysis.  

The course includes the following topics:

  • Tax Design and the Complete Toolbox
  • Economic Tools and /Concepts (including efficiency and optimal tax theory)
  • Some Fundamental Tax Policy Choices (including tax base, taxation of capital, rents)
  • Corporation Tax Policy

The course is taught by Professor Michael Devereux and Professor John Vella 

Optional for these programmes: MSc in Taxation (Part Time)

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Tax Principles and Policy

Core Course


Tax Principles and Policy

This core course introduces students to fundamental principles in taxation as well as enabling students to meet with each other and exchange ideas.  Students taking this degree come from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds and have varying levels of experience, but all will have something to learn and something to bring to the table during this interactive course.

The focus is on themes and concepts that will provide students with the necessary grounding to study a range of topics in tax law within their political and economic context. The aim is to create an understanding of the requirements of a tax system and the difficulties encountered in designing, legislating for and administering such a system.

The course includes the following topics:

  • Tax Concepts (including objectives and function of tax, tax base, capital vs income distinction in tax law, relationship between tax and accounting profits, sources of tax law and constitutional issues)
  • The Tax Unit (individuals, couples or families? Taxing companies, partnerships, trusts and other entities)
  • Tax Avoidance (including the meaning of tax avoidance, and judicial and legislative responses)

The aim of the course is to provide students with a common foundation of key principles, concepts and policy issues in tax. Students will be able to draw upon their understanding of these principles, concepts and issues, including the objectives of tax and tax avoidance, in developing their understanding of the material covered on their other compulsory and optional courses.

The course is taught by Professor Judith Freedman and Professor Glen Loutzenhiser with contributions from Professor Michael Devereux and Professor John Vella.

*Note: Course content and teachers are subject to change

Compulsory for these programmes: MSc in Taxation (Part Time)

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Tax Research Round Table

Core Course


The Tax Research Round Table core course will expose students to emerging ideas in the taxation field. Lecturers will be drawn from Oxford University, including non-tax faculty who will cast light on recent developments in other areas of law, for example public law, restitution and legal theory, or who will discuss research in economics, accounting or finance where these developments are significant for tax experts. In addition we may call on International Research Fellows of the Centre for Business Taxation or other external experts to give a paper regarding their research.

This course involves lectures during the residential week in Michaelmas Term Week minus one of Year 2, plus a session on essay writing. 

The extended essay topics will be based on the research papers chosen for the roundtable.

The course is led by Professor Michael Devereux and Professor John Vella. There will be other lecturers and guests participating.

Compulsory for these programmes: MSc in Taxation (Part Time)

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Tax Treaties

Elective


The Tax Treaties course focuses on the operation of double taxation conventions (more colloquially referred to as “tax treaties” and often abbreviated as “DTCs”). The emphasis is on the interpretation and application of DTCs, though students will also learn something about the negotiation of DTCs.

The course includes the following topics:

  • Introduction to the structure and operation of the principal model DTCs – the OECD Model Tax Convention (“MTC”) and the UN MTC
  • General provisions and definitions – especially the definitions of “resident” and “permanent establishment”
  • Business profits – Arts. 7 and 9 OECD MTC
  • Passive income – Arts. 10, 11, and 12 OECD MTC
  • Individuals – Arts. 15, 16, 17 and 18 OECD MTC
  • Methods of relief from double taxation – Art. 23 OECD MTC
  • Non-discrimination – Art. 24 OECD MTC
  • Settlement of international fiscal disputes – mutual agreement procedure – Art. 25 OECD MTC
  • The future role of DTCs

First year students are strongly encouraged to attend Tax Treaties, as it is a foundation for many of the other electives.

The course is taught by Visiting Professor Philip Baker QC.

Optional for these programmes: MSc in Taxation (Part Time)

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Taxation of Corporate Finance

Elective


The Taxation of Corporate Finance course focuses on the tax treatment of debt, equity and derivative contracts, but also includes other financing structures such as repo transactions and equity finance. The aim of the course is to provide practical knowledge and insights into the general approaches that can be taken in the taxation of these instruments.  Significant attention is given to the principles of corporate finance taxation and their impact on financing and investment decisions. The course aims to alert students to some of the most important policy debates surrounding the decision to tax corporate capital and the use of taxation as a means of regulating corporate behaviours. In particular, students will learn about the tax treatment of:  income earned through holding securities and lending money; capital raised by issuing securities and borrowing money; and the impact of tax-driven arbitrage relating to financing structures, including in a domestic and cross-border context. Students will also acquire the ability to identify the tax implications of the most common corporate financing decisions and those corporate investment decisions that relate to shares and other financial instruments. Though some of the discussion will be illustrated by reference to the UK tax system, there is no requirement that those attending the course need to have any detailed understanding of the UK tax rules (and nor is this a goal of the course). The rules in other tax systems will also be used to illustrate the discussion in appropriate cases. 

The course is taught by Dr Richard Collier, Associate Fellow at Saïd Business School and Professor John Vella 

Optional for these programmes: MSc in Taxation (Part Time)

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Taxation of Global Wealth

The Taxation of Global Wealth course examines UK tax and succession issues from the perspective of wealthy families and individuals who are either resident in the UK (even if temporarily) or hold assets situated here. Such wealth is typically held through trusts, foundations and similar vehicles; capital is far more international, diverse in nature and mobile than in the early 20th Century. Gone are the landed estates situated in one country on which estate duty was easily imposed. Taxing global wealth effectively and fairly presents particular challenges for governments, demonstrated by the fact that there is very little consistency in approach even within Europe. Common reporting and greater tax transparency of offshore vehicles has heightened the public debate on how they should be taxed. Conflict of law issues are also examined in the light of recent case law and some relevant equitable remedies including rescission and rectification.

Some knowledge of trusts or similar vehicles is helpful but not essential for the course.

The course is taught by Emma Chamberlain, Barrister, Pump Court Tax Chambers and Visiting Professor, Oxford Faculty of Law and Simon Douglas, Associate Professor of Law, Oxford Faculty of Law.

Optional for these programmes: MSc in Taxation (Part Time)

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Transfer Pricing

Elective


Problems in transfer pricing and profit attribution.

The Transfer Pricing course is concerned with the arm’s length principle and its application in the form of transfer pricing and profit attribution rules. The course provides an overview of transfer pricing and profit attribution from both a theoretical and practical perspective using case studies to illustrate the key principles, with a focus on the OECD Transfer Pricing Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and Tax Administrations and the OECD’s guidance on PE attribution including the 2010 Report on the Attribution of Profits to Permanent Establishments. The course will consider the current debate on transfer pricing and profit attribution with a number of topical examples and the major conceptual, technical and practical problems of the income allocation rules will also be an especial area of focus.

The course includes the following topics:

  • Fundamental Sources
  • The Arm’s Length Principle and Comparability
  • Functional Analysis
  • Transfer Pricing Methods
  • Comparability analyses in practice
  • Intra-group services
  • Risk and capital
  • Issues raised by minimal function entities
  • Financing
  • Intangible property
  • Business restructurings
  • Permanent Establishments
  • Compliance issues
  • Avoiding Double Taxation/Dispute Resolution
  • The future of the income allocation rules/arm’s length principle

The course is taught by Dr Richard Collier, Associate Fellow at Saïd Business School and Professor John Vella

Optional for these programmes: MSc in Taxation (Part Time)

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UK Corporate Tax

Elective

The UK Corporate Tax course aims to introduce students to the issues surrounding taxation of domestic and multi-national corporations under UK law. Although the focus is on UK taxation, many of the issues discussed will raise fundamental issues around taxing corporations and these will be explored at a general level also.

The course covers corporation tax theory, UK corporate tax structure, distributions and loan relationships, integration with personal taxation, the calculation of corporate profits and gains for tax purposes, losses, treatment of small business, treatment of groups, mergers and acquisitions and international aspects of UK corporation tax as well as examining the relationship between UK corporates and the UK revenue authority under the co-operative compliance regime. The course is complemented by another option, Comparative Corporate Tax, which will approach the subject through the comparison of taxation in a number of jurisdictions but study of the subject in the context of a single jurisdiction will provide a greater depth of knowledge which home students will find can readily be applied in various professional situations.

The course is taught by Professor Judith Freedman, Professor Glen Loutzenhiser and Jonathan Peacock QC, 11 New Square.

Optional for these programmes: MSc in Taxation (Part Time)

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Value Added Tax

Elective


VAT raises a lot of revenue for the UK government. It is the UK’s main consumption tax and the theory behind it might even be described as elegant. However, the problems on the ground caused by an uncertain tax base, varying rates and the failure to adopt either a universal destination or origin basis, contribute to the problems that the tax causes for HMRC and the taxpayer alike. At the European level, this course explores direct effect, procedural aspects, principles and avoidance. From a UK perspective, the Value Added Tax course considers the nature of supplies (including exempt and zero-rated supplies), consideration and who constitutes a taxable persons.

The course is taught by Professor Rita de la Feria, University of Leeds, Philip Ridgway, Temple Tax Chambers, and Michael Ridsdale, Wedlake Bell LLP 

Optional for these programmes: MSc in Taxation (Part Time)