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.


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.

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, the taxation of labour and capital income contributes to achieving a fair income distribution. In addition one week is assigned to discussing how the tax system can be used to reduce environmental damage, or to address other specific government objectives.

During the course, we discuss topics like minimum income laws, earned income tax credits, top income tax brackets, 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 apply the basic principles of the economic analysis of tax systems

  • The student can apply 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 apply the insights on tax policy design to recent policy debates


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 and Prof. dr. J.L. van de Streek

  • Required preparation by students: Not applicable


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 7

  • Names of lecturers: Dr. H. Vrijburg and Prof. dr. J.L. van de Streek

  • 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 and Prof. dr. J.L. van de Streek

  • Required preparation by students: None.

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Written exam including open questions

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

Submission procedures

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature) for the course, the course information guide and the subjects taught in the lectures, the seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials

  • Rosen en Gayer, Public Finance, Global Edition, McGraw-Hill, 10e editie.

Course information guide:

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


Check the website under “course and exam enrollment” for information on how to register for the course.

Contact information

  • 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:


In case of (corona)restrictions imposed by the government, this course description is subject to change.