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LAW8579 : Digital Taxation (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Ms Vasiliki Koukoulioti
  • Owning School: Newcastle Law School
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


To acquire knowledge and understanding of international tax law and how it interacts with other disciplines, especially in the context of the digitalized economy.

The current international tax framework has remained to a large extent unaltered since it was firstly conceived more than 100 years ago. Digitalization, and the new business models that have emerged as a result, have underlined the existing inefficiencies and limitations of the tax system, including the difficulty to capture significant digital activities that do not require any physical presence and the need to tax super-profits mainly related to valuable intangible assets located in low or no tax jurisdictions. More importantly, the global call for a substantial reform of the tax system has brought together many nations and their varied approaches to taxation, bringing questions of fairness, global wealth distribution and sustainability to the fore. During these international negotiations, new approaches to global tax governance have been also considered, in particular the inclusion of various multilateral instruments and agreements on top of a complex network of bilateral tax treaties.

This module intends to provide a high-level understanding of the international tax system and its interaction with other disciplines, including trade law, commercial law, public policy, and international relations. Throughout the module, emphasis will be put on identifying different perspectives (taxpayers, policymakers, legal advisors), developing a critical understanding of opposing interests, as well as conceptualizing how these might differ depending on the socio-economic characteristics of the countries involved (developing, developed and emerging economies) and ultimately shape international tax policy.

Students are not required to have prior technical knowledge of tax law, but they are instead encouraged to bring their experience and knowledge to the discussions, discover the interconnections between taxation and other disciplines and follow a critical approach.

Outline Of Syllabus

The proposed outline of the syllabus is as follows:

•       Introduction to the basic principles of international tax law
•       Tax avoidance issues and taxation of intangibles
•       Taxation of the digitalised economy: challenges - the case of online advertising
•       Taxation of the digitalised economy: international and domestic policy solutions
•       Taxation of the digitalised economy: European Union approach
•       Case study: cloud computing - challenges and solutions
•       Sustainability, fairness and multilateralism in international taxation
•       Global tax governance in a digital world
•       Use of digital technologies for tax compliance
•       Taxation of AI

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningAcademic skills activities90:203:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading120:0020:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching102:0020:00FLEX can be moved online
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities13:003:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery41:004:00FLEX can be moved online
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1100:00100:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Students’ main form of teaching contact will be small-group teaching sessions, which will combine elements of interactive lecture, teacher-directed dialogue, and student-led discussions. In addition to these formal classes, there will be a number of drop-in/surgery hours, where students can ask questions regarding course content, specific readings, research material, research topics, or preparation relating to the assessment for the module.

Students’ active participation and discussion will be facilitated by the structured research and reading activities, where students will be provided with a piece (e.g., policy paper, case law, academic article, etc.) and will be expected to read it, reflect on the arguments provided, conduct research on legal databases or other resources relating to the arguments raised, identify counterarguments in the literature, and critically assess the opinions expressed on this specific issue. Following this work, students will be expected to prepare a small presentation to be given in their chosen session to present and explain their findings. Furthermore, students will be able to take academic skills activities that can be used to test their knowledge and understanding of the factual content of the module.

Directed research and reading will be prepared for each session, which will allow students to develop greater insight into the areas of legal research discussed in lecture, with an additional reading list provided on Canvas with further readings. These reading material can also be used by students to draft their research proposal during their assessment preparation and completion, for which detailed instructions and feedback (when requested) will be provided.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research paper2M1003000 words
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Essay2M1000 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The assessment for the module will be provided in the form of a 3,000-word research essay. Students will be expected to either select one of the assigned questions covering issues discussed in the module, or alternatively, propose their own research topic subject to module leader approval. This assessed research essay will test students’ ability to conduct research, think critically about complex tax concepts and their interaction with other legal and non-legal areas, and reflect upon module content and its interdisciplinary relevance. They should also be able to demonstrate the connection between a theoretical topic and real-life problems (for example starting from a historical and economic analysis of the permanent establishment concept to the challenges confronted by governments to tax revenues generated by multinationals with minimal physical activity but significant digital interaction within their jurisdiction), or to identify common challenges in different legal areas and apply a similar regulatory approach (for example, interactions between tax law and competition law or tax law and privacy law). Students will be expected to go beyond ‘traditional’ doctrinal assessment, engaging with a wider body of materials (as discussed throughout the course), to provide a more holistic understanding of the interactions between international relations, philosophy and political economy with tax law, and to propose policy solutions understanding the need for a multidisciplinary approach. In order to prepare for the final assessment and ensure their understanding of content in the first weeks of the module, there will be a 1,000 word formative essay that will be submitted by the middle of the module, in order to receive feedback in advance of preparing the final assessment.

Reading Lists