nl en

Taxing for the Common Good


Admission requirements

Students following this course are recommended to have completed at least one year of university education, not necessarily in law or economics. We expect the students to have a good proficiency in English both orally and in writing.


1.1 Context
The course taxing for the common good explains how tax systems contribute to a better society beyond revenue raising. The revenue raising role of taxes is often stressed as their primary role. Instead, this course focusses on how tax systems contribute to social goals directly. We do so from both the perspective of welfare economics and the basic principles and sources of law. We do not focus on the details of a specific tax law, but introduce key concepts that help understand the tax system as a whole. After doing so, students can use these concepts to analyse the extent to which the tax system contributes to social objectives and whether the tax system satisfies the fundamental principles of law.

1.2 Connection with the minor
The aim of the minor ‘tax and society’ is to familiarize students with the social impact of taxation. The course taxing for the common good specifically addresses how the tax system can contribute to societal goals other than revenue raising from an economic perspective.

1.3 Design of the course
The course starts with an introduction of the key economic principles of tax incidence, the welfare loss of taxation, and the basic principles underlying the tax law. The course then applies these insights to the taxation of labour and capital income relative to consumption, with the aim to achieve a fair income distribution. Furthermore, one week is assigned to discussing how the tax system can be used to reduce environmental damage, or to address other specific government objectives, and one week is assigned to discussing the influence of politics on policy outcomes.

During the course, we discuss topics like minimum income laws, earned income tax credits, top income tax brackets, the negative income tax, and a dual income tax on both labour and capital income. Special attention will be given to the corporate income tax and various forms of a carbon and/or energy taxes, and in doing so we will discuss the economic theory of (international) cooperation.

Every week the theory is presented in a short weblecture, whereafter an applied discussion is organized during an interactive seminar later in the week. In the final week students are asked to reflect on why the identified tax reforms fail to materialize.

Course objectives

The following course objectives are achieved at the end of the course

By the end of this course students know that tax systems are an important determinant of social objectives and are able to apply this knowledge to various recent policy debates. Specifically, the following goals are achieved:

  • The student can explain the basic principles of the economic analysis of tax systems

  • The student describe the basic principles of tax law

  • The student can explain how tax systems can contribute to achieving a more equal income distribution

  • The student can explain how tax systems can contribute to a reduction in environmental damage

  • The student can interpret recent policy debates using the economic concepts discussed.


Check MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: Not applicable. The theory content is provided by weblectures.

  • Names of lecturers: Dr. H. Vrijburg

  • Required preparation by students: Not applicable


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 7

  • Names of lecturers: Dr. H. Vrijburg

  • Required preparation by students: watch the weblecture, read required literature, prepare the weekly assignment.

Other methods of instruction

  • Description: 6 or 7 weblectures of approximately 1 hour.

  • Names of instructors: Dr. H. Vrijburg

  • Required preparation by students: None.

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • A written exam with open questions is the standard.

  • Depending on the number of students, we may choose to make the exam an oral exam instead of a written exam.

Areas to be tested within the exam
The exam is based on the required reading (literature) for the course, and the subjects and exercises discussed in the weblectures and the seminars. The most recent information can be found on Brightspace.

Regulation retake passed exams
In this course it is possible to retake an exam that has been passed (cf. art. and further of the Course and Examination Regulations) on the condition that this course is not part of the minor. Students who have passed the exam may retake the final written assessment (test) of the course if they meet certain requirements. To retake a passed exam, students need to ask the Student Administration Office (OIC) for permission. For more information, go to 'course and exam enrollment' > 'permission for retaking a passed exam' on the student website.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials

  • The free online textbook CoreEcon

Course information guide:

Reader: To be decided. The objective is to provide most articles free of charge via a link on Brightspace.


Registration for courses and exams takes place via MyStudymap. If you do not have access to MyStudymap (guest students), look here (under the Law-tab) for more information on the registration procedure in your situation.


  • Coordinator: dr. H. Vrijburg

  • Work address: KOG, Steenschuur 25, 2311 ES Leiden. Room A. 257.

  • Contact information: via the institute below.

  • Telephone number: via the institute below.

  • Email:


  • Institute: Institute of Tax Law and Economics

  • Department: Economics

  • Room number secretary: B2.07

  • Opening hours: 9:00-12:00

  • Telephone number secretary: 071-527 7756/1571.

  • Email: