LAW41450 International Tax Law

Academic Year 2023/2024

Tax, particularly international tax, has generated a high level of public discourse in the past decade. Witness the US Senate questioning Apple on its corporate structure involving subsidiaries in Ireland (May 2013), the chair of the UK Public Accounts Committee labelling Google as "calculated, unethical and evil" for its tax planning and the state aid investigation by the European Commission into the issue of whether multinational companies benefitted from favourable rulings from the tax authorities of Ireland, the Netherlands or Luxembourg.

Tax is central to business and individual decisions, and international tax is of pressing concern given the constraints of the nation state in the face of globalisation and cross-border business activities. International tax raises issues of formal law, soft law, legal interpretation, equality, constitutional issues and ethics. We will look at the involvement of the European Commission in the area of tax, the efforts by the OECD to tackle double taxation and, more recently, double non-taxation (e.g. the Base Erosion of Profits initiative of the OECD). We will contrast the approach taken by the United Nations and the OECD in the area of model bilateral double tax treaties. We will discuss whether the clampdown on international tax avoidance is the product of national protectionism by large member states or the nascent stirrings of an international tax order.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this course, students should have a sound historical and current understanding of the distinction between the source state and the state of residence for the purposes of allocating taxing jurisdiction. The substance and geographical spread of Ireland's network of bilateral double tax treaties will be studied. The competence of the EU in the area of tax will also be studied, as will be the status of the OECD and its reliance on international political agreement to achieve its aims. We will examine, in a legal context, whether the call by, for example, Thomas Piketty for a global wealth tax is sustainable in the current legal structure. We will reach a (perhaps tentative) view on the future likely course of Ireland’s corporation tax policy.

Indicative Module Content:

International tax law will be considered from a legal point of view, focussing on the tension between the sovereignty of jurisdictions (currently exercised through residence and source) and the mobility of, in particular, multinational enterprises. The history of the allocation of taxing rights will be considered, together with the challenges to the international tax order from digital commerce.

The material covered will be a mixture of theoretical examinations of tax, together with review of detailed bilateral double tax treaties, national legislation and case law. Students are expected to complete the readings in advance and to present and defend a legal analysis of particular scenarios in class.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
The lectures are intended to be highly interactive. Each class starts with a journal presentation by a few students. The ensuing discussion is designed to facilitate identification of the major issues discussed in class, and to allow different viewpoints to be heard. The class is typically very international, and students are expected to engage meaningfully with the material.

As far as the written assignment is concerned, students are encouraged to think deeply about international tax in a legal context. The assignment is not a survey of law in a particular area, but an opportunity for students to develop a deep understanding of the legal forces shaping the international tax landscape. The key to the assignment is to extend the material covered in class, and to analyse it coherently and persuasively. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: Weekly journal (200 words per week) on international tax news. Each student will present at least one weekly journal in class as part of non-summative feedback and peer review. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Examination: End of semester examination on international tax issue. 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Graded Yes



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback will take place during class by peers and lecturer.

European tax law / Terra, B. J. M; Wattèl, Peter Jacob, 2018, 7th ed.

Principles of International Taxation '/ Lynne Oats, Emer Mulligan, 2019