Public Finance

Module description


This module is about fundamental questions in the economics of the public sector: how should decisions be made about whether particular tasks should be undertaken by the public sector or the private sector? It therefore deals with public goods, policies with respect to external effects and so on. As well as an analysis of the role of public expenditure, the course also examines the economics of taxation and possible tax reforms.


Additional Information:


The broad scope of this module means internationalisation is embedded in the course content with examples being drawn from different countries as well as an analysis of the tax and public expenditure implications of globalization.


Sustainability is included in the issues involved, for example in the analysis of corrective taxation such as pollution taxes.


Employability will be enhanced by the development of analytical skills.

Research in Teaching

The module draws on Simon James’ extensive research in the area with a range of his publications on the reading list, including his textbook (with Chris Nobes), The Economics of Taxation: Principles, Policy and Practice (13th edition 2013), A Dictionary of Taxation, second edition, 2012, viii + 299 pages, Edward Elgar Publishers, Cheltenham and Northampton, Massachusetts and (edited) The Complexity of Tax Simplification: Experiences from around the World, Palgrave Macmillan (forthcoming 2015) and Taxation, Critical Perspectives on the World Economy, Routledge, London and New York, Four volumes, 2002, xi + 1,696 pages.


Full module specification

Module title:Public Finance
Module code:BEE2005
Module level:2
Academic year:2015/6
Module lecturers:
  • Professor Simon James - Lecturer
Module credit:30
ECTS value:



BEE1034 or BEE1027 or BEE1029 or (BEE1030 and BEE1031)



Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 1:


Duration (weeks) - term 2:


Duration (weeks) - term 3:


Module aims

The aim of this module is to reinforce students’ ability to undertake economic analysis and to apply it to a whole range of policy issues relating to the public sector. By the end of the module students will be able to analyse the advantages and disadvantages of various forms of public sector activity and assess particular suggestions for improvement. On the revenue side, the module aims to enable individuals to analyse particular taxes and proposed tax reforms in terms of efficiency and equity.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate a contextual appreciation of the role of the public sector
  • 2. demonstrate an understanding and ability to analyse important issues in public expenditure
  • 3. demonstrate an understanding and ability to analyse important issues in taxation
  • 4. demonstrate an understanding of the principles, policy and practice relating to major taxes

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. deal with issues of public finance using both theoretical and empirical contributions

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. analyse critically issues in both theoretical and practical contexts
  • 7. develop written communication skills

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Contact hours25Lectures

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Assignment: written assignment on a question selected from a wide range.Open1-7Written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination1003 hours: 4 questions from a choice of 10.1-7Performance summary

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
3 hour examination (100%)3 hour examination, 4 questions from a choice of 10.1-7August September

Syllabus plan

• The Role of the Public Sector
• Principles of Taxation
• Issues of Public Expenditure
• Taxation Policy and Practice

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

J. Cullis and P. Jones, (2009) Public Finance and Public Choice, 3rd ed. Oxford University Press

S. James and C. Nobes (2015), The Economics of Taxation: Principles, Policy and Policy, 15th ed., Birmingham: Fiscal Publications.

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