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Tax Debates


Admission requirements

Prospective students are recommended to have completed a minimum of one year of university education (not necessarily in law or economics). Proficiency in English, both verbal and in written, is expected.


Taxes are instrumental to building fair and prosperous societies, but what fairness requires is subject to pervasive disagreement and debate. In this course, students will draw on what they have learned elsewhere in the minor to develop their own views on the opportunities and challenges facing societies in the pursuit of a sustainable and fair tax system.

Place within the minor 'Tax and Society'
The minor ‘Tax and Society’ focusses on how national and international tax policy can help build fair and prosperous societies in the face of major societal challenges. The course ‘Tax Debates’ forms the capstone of the minor. Having studied the causes and effects of national and international tax policy from a number of different disciplinary perspectives, this course aims to synthesize this knowledge within a philosophical framework that facilitates debate about the demands of fairness in taxation.

Design of the course
The first part of Tax Debates, comprising weeks 1 and 2, introduces a normative, philosophical perspective on the societal challenges that have been the subject of other courses in the minor. We will explore theories of distributive justice as they apply to taxation, and examine whether and how national policymakers should take into account the international consequences of their tax policies.

During the second part of the course, comprising weeks 3, 4 and 5, we will apply these theoretical insights to the real-word challenges that are addressed in the minor. Examples of possible topics include carbon taxes, wealth inequality, and cross-border mobility of the rich. Students will be invited to discuss their views during moderated classroom debates and in dialogue with invited experts. In addition, they will collaborate in groups of four (group size may be subject to change depending on the total number of students enrolled), to present their critical appraisal of the required literature and work on a paper of approximately 7,500 words in which they explore one current issue of their choice in the public debate on tax fairness.

Course objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • explain the core ideas of several theories of distributive justice and their meaning for tax policy;

  • demonstrate familiarity with the philosophical debate on the weighing of national and foreign interests in tax policy-making;

  • integrate the knowledge obtained in the other courses of the minor 'Tax and Society';

  • communicate their substantiated views on the fairness and sustainability of taxation both orally and in writing;

  • have strengthened their teamworking skills in a multidisciplinary environment.


See MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) instructions: 5

  • Names of instructors: mr. drs. B.N. van Ganzen; dr. mr. L.C.J. van Apeldoorn and selected guest lecturers

  • Required preparation by students: required reading; preparation of weekly individual assignments; participation during the seminars (mandatory)

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Individual preparation of weekly assignments (approximately 1,000 words per week) and participation during the seminars (5 sessions of 2 hours each): 40% of the final grade. Each week, both elements together count as one assignment. Hence, students cannot earn points for a weekly assignment when they are absent during that week’s classroom debate.

  • Group paper (approximately 7,500 words): 60% of the final grade.

The retake of the individual assignments consists of a larger essay (approximately 5,000 words) covering the material of the entire course. The retake of the group paper either entails improving the previously submitted group paper or submitting a new paper; with the former option, a maximum grade of 6,0 can be obtained.

Partial grades obtained by students who fail to successfully complete the course lapse after the current academic year.

Submission procedures
All written work must be submitted via Brightspace. Deadlines will be announced in the course syllabus on Brightspace at the beginning of the course.

Areas to be tested within the exam
Grading of students’ individual participation during the classroom debates will be based on the quality and factual accuracy of the arguments made, the ability to present original arguments that go beyond the material found in the required reading, and the ability to synthesize the material addressed in the other courses in the minor Tax and Society. The same criteria apply for the grading of all written work, in addition to the quality of the writing, structure of the analysis, and use of sources and footnotes.

Reading list

Required reading for the weekly assignments will be announced on Brightspace. For the group paper, students are required to search for literature themselves and may also use materials which have been provided in the five previous courses.


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: mr. drs. B.N. van Ganzen

  • Work address: Kamerlingh Onnes Building, room B2.24

  • Contact information via: Secretariat Department of Tax Law

  • Telephone number; +31 (0) 71 527 7840

  • Email:


  • Institute: Institute of Tax Law and Economics

  • Department: Tax Law

  • Room number secretary: Kamerlingh Onnes Building, B2.11

  • Opening hours: 9.00 – 17.00 hrs

  • Telephone number secretary: +31 (0) 71 527 7840

  • Email: