Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module LAW45915: International Tax Law

Department: Law

LAW45915: International Tax Law

Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2020/21 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 international taxation. The module will commence with foundational concepts and policy issues in the international tax system, including the principles of jurisdiction to tax and the double taxation problem. It will also look at international tax planning and tax avoidance in the context of globalisation. Country responses to both problems of double taxation and tax minimisation schemes, including bilateral and multilateral treaties and anti-avoidance rules will be reviewed. The module will consider the challenges presented by the digital economy to the conventional international tax norms.
  • The module will give students the opportunity to engage in current policy debates and equip them with the ability to analyse legislation and case law to solve problems in practice.
  • The module will enhance study in other areas of international law and 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 international taxation. The syllabus will cover the following topics:
  • Principles of taxation: taxing income
  • Jurisdiction to tax: source and residence principles
  • Double taxation problem and double taxation relief
  • Tax treaties
  • International tax planning and anti-avoidance rules: treaty shopping; thin capitalisation; transfer pricing and controlled foreign company (CFC) regimes
  • Tax competition, tax havens and Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) measures
  • Tax challenges 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 international taxation
  • Understand the roles that the international organisations (e.g., OECD and UN) play in the development of international tax system
  • Understand the key challenges of the design of international tax 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 international tax rules and the interaction of the tax rules of sovereign countries
  • Demonstrate ability to evaluate government policy in light of alternative benchmarks and how effectively legislation has 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 international tax. 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: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 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