Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module LAW46015: Consumption Tax Law and Policy

Department: Law

LAW46015: Consumption Tax Law and Policy

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The aim of this module is to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the key policy and legal issues, as well as contemporary developments, in taxation of consumption of goods and services. The module will focus on the design features and challenges of the Value Added Tax (VAT), the most important form of consumption tax used in almost 170 countries worldwide. It will look at rate structure, tax base, tax administration and cross-border issues in the context of UK and EU VAT systems, with extensive references to international developments in other jurisdictions, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and China. The module will also cover the impact of globalization and the growth of the digital economy on the design and operation of the tax.
  • The module will give students the opportunity to engage in current policy debates and equip them with the knowledge needed to include crucial advice on VAT consequences of any commercial or family transaction on which they might provide legal guidance.
  • The module will enhance study in other areas of commercial law and prepare students for a career in a wide range of global employment destinations, including but not limited to the legal profession, legal practice in accountancy, house company counsel and government agencies.


  • The module will feature legal and policy issues in VAT. The syllabus will cover the following topics:
  • Principles of taxation: taxing consumption
  • The building blocks of VAT law: supply, consideration, business and taxable person
  • Rate structure: reduced rates and zero rate
  • Exemptions
  • Thresholds and small business regimes
  • Cross-border issues
  • VAT in the digital economy

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Demonstrate detailed knowledge of basic principles, core policy issues and the complex body of rules and case law in the field of VAT
  • Understand the key challenges of the design of VAT law and policy in a globalised economy
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Critically comment or critique on currently debated tax issues and related arguments in the academic literature
  • Identify and critically evaluate the different approaches that countries have taken in developing their VAT rules
  • Demonstrate ability to evaluate government policy in light of alternative benchmarks and how effectively legislation and judicial interpretation have achieved the policy intention of the government
Key Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Demonstrate sophisticated research, analytical and writing skills and ability to think critically
  • Manage time efficiently and work independently within a limited time frame to complete a specified task

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The teaching will be based on interactive seminars, supported by independent study of reading materials. The seminars will provide a forum for students to gain basic knowledge of VAT. Students’ understanding of the topics will be further enhanced through reading for each seminar.
  • The assessment will be in the form of a 3,000-word essay. The essay will test students’ understanding of the issues and ability to conduct independent research and apply the materials to develop coherent arguments

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 Weekly with reading weeks 2 16
Preparation and Reading 134
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
<Essay 3000 Words 100% Essay, 3000 words, different title

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment will be in the form of an essay of 1,000 words. Following law school policy, each student will receive individual feedback.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University