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International Tax Law for Multinational Enterprises


Admission requirements

STUDENTEN FISCAAL RECHT KUNNEN NIET DEELNEMEN (i.v.m. overlap met verplichte vakken internationaal belastingrecht).

Successful completion of at least one year of university education in law. Proficiency in English both orally and in writing. The overall maximum number of students in the course is 25. We will be admitting max. 15 exchange students to the course as well as max. 10 law students (non-tax).


In today’s world many companies operate across borders. We call them multinational enterprises. In a simple form a company resident in Germany has a sales office in Belgium. In a more complex case a company may have its headquarters in Japan, the production facilities in China, while the research and development is done in the Netherlands, the brand name is kept in a company on the Cayman Islands and the sales are done in many countries across the world.

Multinational enterprises encounter taxation in all the countries they are active in. This course explores the double taxation, low taxation and the double non-taxation that may arise in those cases. We will study why and how countries tax multinational enterprises and how tax treaties for the avoidance of double taxation function. We will also pay attention to the ways multinationals may use the rules to minimize taxation and to the disapproval in society about the level of taxes paid by multinationals. We will discuss the role and dilemma of governments in tax avoidance: they want to attract businesses and also improve the rules. We will also discuss the role of multinationals themselves: they want to maximize profits, but may want to behave more socially responsible and pay ‘a fair share’ of tax. We will look into the solutions proposed by the OECD and the EU for tax avoidance by multinationals.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
The principal objectives of this course are to introduce students to why and how countries typically tax multinational enterprises, to the role of tax treaties and to the phenomenon of tax avoidance and the dilemmas faced by both countries and multinationals in their attitudes towards tax avoidance.

Achievement levels
By the end of the course the students:

  • Will have a basic understanding of why and how countries tax multinational enterprises

  • Will have gained basic knowledge of how tax treaties function

  • Will have a basic understanding of the phenomenon of tax avoidance. Students will be familiar with the elements of tax systems used for tax avoidance, and they will be able to think and argue in an informed and relevant manner about the position of both countries and multinational enterprises in this field. They will also have a broad idea of the solutions presently debated.


The course is scheduled to take place in September and October 2021 (semester 1, Block 1). During this period there will be 10 interactive classes. The detailed timetable for this course will be published on Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

Interactive lectures
The course will be taught through 10 interactive classes (2 × 45 minutes each). Students are required to prepare 3 assignments. Class sessions will consist of (a mix of) lectures and class discussions based on the assignments prepared.


Assessment method

Regular examination
The grade for this course is based on a final, written exam at the end of the course. In addition a participation bonus of 0.5 may be earned. Whether or not the bonus will be granted is based on submission of assignments (through Brightspace), presence during class and active participation during class discussions. Please note that participation is not mandatory; it is still possible to get the maximum grade for the course without the participation bonus.

A passing grade for the course is 5.5 or higher.

Students who fail to obtain a passing grade for the regular exam are entitled to a re-examination. A participation bonus is not carried over to the re-examination. The re-examination consists of an individual oral exam.

Areas to be tested within the exam
All subjects taught in the lectures and seminars, all reading material, including additional materials published on Brightspace, all other instructions and skills taught during the course.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials

  • Brian J. Arnold, International Tax Primer (fourth edition, 2019)

  • OECD Model Tax Convention 2017 and Commentaries (available for download here)

  • OECD BEPS-documents to be determined (available for download on

  • Additional materials will be posted on Brightspace.


Students have to register for the lectures and working groups through uSis. With this registration you have access to the digital learning environment of this course in Brightspace. You may register up to 5 calendar days before the first teaching session begins.

Students have to register for exams and retakes through uSis. With this registration you also have access to the digital learning environment of this course in Brightspace You may register up to 10 calendar days before the exam or retake.

Exchange students have priority and will be registered for the course first. Any remaining seats will be available for students from Leiden University and other Dutch Universities.

Contact information


For questions regarding this course, please contact the secretariat of the Department of Tax Law:

  • Institute: Department of Tax Law and Economics

  • Department: Tax Law

  • Room number secretary: B2.11

  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9.00-17.00

  • Telephone number secretary: 071 – 527 7840

  • Email:


If you have questions regarding the course, please contact the secretariat of the Department of Tax Law (details above).