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Order Description
[a] Critically consider the relevance of Smith’s canons of good taxation for UK tax policymakers in the twenty first century; and
[b] Clearly identify what you believe are the key attributes of a good tax system (and why).
Taxation Essay
What you will be required to do
Write an essay in which you
[a] Critically consider the relevance of Smith’s canons of good taxation for UK tax policymakers in the twenty first century; and
[b] Clearly identify what you believe are the key attributes of a good tax system (and why).
Further guidance is provided below.
Remember that there is no right or wrong structure.
You do not, therefore, need to have distinct sections for requirements [a] and [b].
Your answer must contain [a] and [b].
The order in which this is done is a matter over which you have discretion.
Some reading to get you started and to help you think about the issues:
•    Treasury Committee, Principles of Tax Policy, March 2011.  Available here (pdf) [opens in new window].
•    Alley and Bentley, A remodelling of Adam Smith’s tax design principles, 2005.  Available here (pdf) [opens in new window].
•    Fiscal Commission Working Group, Principles for a Modern and Efficient Tax System in an Independent Scotland, 2013. Focus on Chapter 3. Available here (pdf) [opens in a new window].
Some places to explore (in addition to the subscription databases available through the Library):
•    The Social Sciences Research Network.
•    Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation: publications.
•    The Mirrlees Review.
•    All essays must to contain personal interpretation and critical discussion.  Essays that contain only description will not pass.  There is no “right” or “wrong” answer.  What matters is the quality of your discussion and analysis.  Description is included because it helps you to provide analysis and critical discussion.  If your essay contains description that is not necessary for your analysis or discussion then remove it.
•    You are expected to refer to, and engage with, the views of others to support your discussion.  The essay is not, however, a test of who can cite the most sources.  What matters is the way in which you refer to, and engage with, the work of others to support your analysis.  You will be expected to refer to your sources and use the names of relevant authors.
•    You must provide personal interpretation but this does not mean that ignore the views of those who take a different view from you.  If you take a particular position, and there are arguments against it, you need to explain why your position is preferable given the opposition.  Is there a weakness in the arguments of the opposition?
•    You have an hour to answer the essay question.  It is important that you know how much you can write in an hour.  It is recommended that you practice writing an essay under timed conditions because only then will you know for sure how much you can write.  Only then will you know: you need to know this in order to structure your answer.  In previous years it is obvious that some students spent too long (i.e., more than an hour) answering the essay question to the detriment of the numerical question.  Both questions are worth 50 marks.  You should, therefore, spend an hour on each.
•    There is no “right” or “wrong” structure. However, some structures may be better than others.  For example, if you write an essay and discover that you have repetition then this may indicate that your structure is inappropriate.
•    Whilst the question’s focus is with the United Kingdom, insights from other jurisdictions may aid your discussion and analysis (but they do not need to be included in order to get a good mark).
•    Do not feel obliged to refer to material from the theory part of the module just because it has been taught.  You will need to make a judgment as to what it is relevant to include in your essay.
•    Good essays have a strong narrative flow: they have direction, with clear progression between the paragraphs.  The reader is never lost and is aware, form the start, what will happen in the essay.
•    It is acceptable, in the exam, to use “I”.  You will not lose marks if you say, for example, “In this essay I will …”.
•    You must write with clarity and accuracy.  Minor errors and mistakes can, of course, creep in when writing under exam conditions.  Such errors do not, usually, have a dramatic effect on the overall quality of your answer.  Major or serious errors will make it difficult for you to score highly.
•    Quotations can be useful but it is often better to paraphrase because this demonstrates more clearly that you understand what it is to which you are referring.  Paraphrasing may also use fewer words than direct quotation.

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