The law of tax is often perceived by those involved in its practice and study as standing outside the regular legal system, and not sharing its values, standards and safeguards. This lecture examines the reasons why this is so and finds them in the history of tax law in its substance and its administration. It sees how the constitutional underpinning of tax law, and the effect this had on the nature of the law, forced its administration and development into the hands not of lawyers, but of bureaucrats. Examining its public character, its administration by lay tribunals, limits on the rights of appeal and law reporting, and above all the role of the revenue departments of the executive, the lecture explains how the special character of tax law evolved and the reasons for its persistence.

Chantal Stebbings is Professor of Law and Legal History at the University of Exeter. In the past she has served as Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Exeter, Visiting Professor at the University of Rennes, France , a Fellow of the Institute of Taxation and a General Commissioner of Income Tax. She has also held a British Academy Research Readership, a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship and has received sustained funding from the Wellcome Trust. Her latest monograph, the fourth for Cambridge University Press, is entitled Tax, Medicines and the Law: from Quackery to Pharmacy (2018). She is the Editor of the Journal of Legal History and the Chair of the Hamlyn Trust.