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Centre for Financial and Management Studies (CeFiMS)

Public Financial Management: Revenue

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This course addresses the theory and practice of public finance with special reference to how governments raise revenues. It is concerned with taxation, borrowing and aid. There are economic principles that bear on the issues of financing public expenditure and these are covered in the course. If you have not studied economics before there is an Appendix that covers the relevant microeconomics concepts that underlie taxation theory.

At the same time the course recognises that decisions on taxation, borrowing and aid are not taken solely with reference to economics but also to politics.


Study Guide

You will receive a looseleaf binder containing eight ‘course units’. The units are carefully structured to provide the main teaching, defining and exploring the main concepts and issues, locating these within current debate and introducing and linking the further assigned readings. The unit files are also available to download from the Online Study Centre.


You will receive four volumes of Readings, which are a compilation of recently published articles or seminal writings which augment and illustrate the main text. These readings are drawn from a wide variety of sources including:

  • “classics” in the study of public finance
  • operational and policy documents that illustrate how the public finance practitioner uses the tools of public finance in real world policy contexts
  • case studies and research papers that examine the impact of various public finance policies and initiatives in a variety of country and policy contexts.
Online Study Centre

You will have access to the OSC, which is a web-accessed learning environment. Via the OSC, you can communicate with your assigned academic tutor, administrators and other students on the course using discussion forums. The OSC also provides access to the course Study Guide and assignments, as well as a selection of electronic journals available on the University of London Online Library.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • apply and assess the main tools of analysis used by mainstream economic theory to construct and design taxation and expenditure policy in a variety of country and policy contexts;
  • identify the global trends in tax and other government revenues and the economic and political factors underlying these trends;
  • recognise and assess different views on the role of public finance in the process of economic development;
  • identify and apply basic concepts and priorities in the management of debts and deficits;
  • apply a political economy perspective to the role of aid in the process of economic development;

Scope and syllabus

Course Units
Unit 1: Tax Issues in Context
  • 1.1 Introduction
  • 1.2 Criteria for Assessing Types of Taxation
  • 1.3 Types of Tax
  • 1.4 Trends in Taxation
  • 1.5 Tax Policy and Tax Administration
  • 1.6 Summary and Quiz
Unit 2: Tax Incidence and Optimal Taxation
  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 Tax Incidence
  • 2.3 Optimal Taxation
  • 2.4 Summary and Conclusions
  • Unit 3: Policy Objectives and Taxation
  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.2 Income Distribution and Taxation
  • 3.3 Environmental Taxes
  • 3.4 Behaviour and Taxes: Tobacco and Alcohol Taxes
  • 3.5 Summary and Conclusions
Unit 4: Tax Policy Issues in Developing and Transition Countries (I)
  • 4.1 Introduction
  • 4.2 Tax Policies in Developing Countries
  • 4.3 Tax Administration in Developing and Transition Countries
  • 4.4 Value Added Tax (VAT)
  • 4.5 Tax Policy in Transition Economies
  • 4.6 China's Tax Reforms
  • 4.7 Summary and Conclusions
Unit 5: Tax Policy Issues in Developing and Transition Countries (II)
  • 5.1 Introduction
  • 5.2 Tax Competition
  • 5.3 Flat Taxes
  • 5.4 Land and Agricultural Taxation in Developing Countries
  • 5.5 Summary and Conclusions
Unit 6: Local Revenues in Developing and Transition Countries
  • 6.1 Introduction
  • 6.2 The Economic Case for Decentralisation
  • 6.3 Local Taxation and User Charges and Fees
  • 6.4 Intergovernmetal Grants and Transfers
  • 6.5 Sub-National Governing Borrowing
  • 6.6 Summary and Conclusions
Unit 7: Deficits and Debts
  • 7.1 Introduction
  • 7.2 Why Do Governments Run Deficits?
  • 7.3 Definitions of Deficits
  • 7.4 Why Do Deficits Matter?
  • 7.5 Does Government Debt Matter?
  • 7.6 Fiscal Policy in Developing Countries
  • 7.7 Fiscal Adjustment and Fiscal Illusions
  • 7.8 Summary and Review
Unit 8: Foreign Aid and Debt Relief
  • 8.1 What is Foreign Aid?
  • 8.2 A Brief History of Aid since 1945
  • 8.3 Why Do Countries Give Aid?
  • 8.4 The Impact of Aid
  • 8.5 Debt Relief
  • 8.6 Donor Practices
  • 8.7 Conclusions

Method of assessment

You will complete two assignments, which will be marked by your tutor. Each assignment is worth 15% of your total course mark. You will be expected to submit your first assignment by the Tuesday of Week 5, and the second assignment at the end of the course, on the Tuesday after Week 8. Assignments are submitted and feedback given online. You will also sit a three-hour examination on a specified date in October, worth 70% of your total mark. An up-to-date timetable of examinations is published in April each year.