About the programme 

The University of Cape Town presents Africa’s first and only interdisciplinary programme fully dedicated to the study of international taxation.  The programme is co-presented and taught by UCT’s Faculties of Commerce and Law in cooperation with the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD).

The International Taxation Masters programme leverages UCT’s uncontested geographical advantage as a gateway for global engagement in fiscal matters between the developed and developing worlds. 

Career Prospects

Graduates from the UCT International Taxation Masters are sought after and have excellent career prospects, both in South Africa and elsewhere. The principled knowledge, analytical skill and way of thinking gained from the programme is highly flexible in its application in a variety of professional career settings, including in advisory, law, accountancy, fiscal regulation, academia, and in-house expertise.

Past graduates from the UCT International Taxation Masters occupy positions such as International Tax Advisor, Consultant, Manager, Lawyer, Tax Director, Director, Group Tax Manager and Senior Lecturer within international accounting firms, boutique specialist international tax practices, leading local and international law firms, multinational corporates, universities, and government agencies including revenue authorities and Ministries of Finance.

Programme Outline

The International Taxation Masters is a two-year programme.

Over the course of the two years, students have unrestricted access to the IBFD online research platform, the Kluwer International Tax Database, the International Tax Law Reports and an impressive array of resources from all UCT libraries.

Year 1: Coursework and Lecture Schedule

During the first year, over two semesters from February to May and July to November, residential-based courses are presented in Cape Town.

Lecture attendance in-person is compulsory. Seminars are usually scheduled for one whole afternoon of a weekday (usually on Mondays) except for more intensive block weeks of lectures.

Teaching takes the form of lectures or seminars, consisting of guided group discussions with a focus on case studies applied in a practical manner, as well as theoretical engagement with the legal architecture of the international tax regime and its underlying norms. Advanced digital learning platforms are used to assist with lecture preparation and study.

All teaching is undertaken by UCT academics with a legal and/or commercial background, by leading practitioners or by international guests. The list of teaching faculty may be viewed here.   

The courses in the first year are International Tax I and International Tax II.

  • International Tax I

The first semester commences with an intensive week of residential lectures presented by UCT academics and visiting staff from the IBFD. The problem of double taxation and the solutions offered by double tax conventions are introduced. Additionally, topical areas may be covered. Past topics included taxation of the digitised economy, international tax transparency, the role of the BRICS in international tax policy, and Base Erosion and Profit Shifting.

During the remainder of the first semester, weekly seminars cover all aspects of double tax conventions in detail. Consideration is given to the OECD, UN and ATAF Model Tax Conventions, the history of the international tax system, treaty provisions dealing with business taxation, investment flows, and income of individuals, as well as more complex areas such as legal methods of treaty interpretation and key features of South Africa’s double tax treaty network.

Teaching takes the form of seminar discussions for which students are expected to prepare. A significant workload can be expected.

  • International Tax II

In the second semester, weekly seminars shift to more specialised topics under double tax conventions and other international fiscal instruments.

Topics dealt with include cross-border tax aspects of immovable property and gains, international shipping, non-discrimination, taxpayer information exchange, double tax relief, dispute resolution under tax treaties, the history of international tax avoidance and legal and other measures aimed to address it, specialist tax treaty clauses and recent international tax developments.

The theory and practice of transfer pricing are taught, usually by an international visiting academic and leading practitioners, during a block period.

Other topics covered during this semester include seminars on taxation and human rights and selected aspects of South Africa’s international tax regime, such as provisions for relief of double taxation and controlled foreign company rules. In addition, international aspects of Value Added Tax are dealt with.

  • Assessment

Mixed assessment methods are used for the International Tax I and II courses. These typically take the form of completing written research assignments, either over a long or short period, essay assignments, tax opinions, in-class presentations, timed exams, and usually, the capstone assessment takes the form of a moot court assignment.

The tax moot assignment dealing with an international tax case is usually presented in the second semester, which comprises group work and oral presentation. The programme convenors may also consider the entry of a UCT team in the annual Leuven international tax moot competition co-organised by the IBFD and the University of Leuven, Belgium. 

Year 2: Research

In the second year, students perform independent research and draft a minor dissertation on an approved topic under the supervision of a programme convenor. 

If practicable, students are allowed to conduct their research away from Cape Town during the second year.

Which degree? MCom specialising in Taxation in the field of International Taxation or LLM specialising in International Taxation?

The UCT International Taxation Masters is an interdisciplinary programme based in legal and commercial science. The coursework component combines these fields and is, therefore, the same for the MCom specialising in Taxation in the field of International Taxation [CM031FTX09] and the LLM specialising in International Taxation [LM003CML14].

The research component of the degree conducted in the second year determines the degree with which a successful student will exit.

At the start of year 2, students need to make a choice whether they wish to complete a minor dissertation in law or commerce. Background and experience are important considerations in deciding which degree to pursue. Furthermore, research proposals are required to be presented at the end of year 1, which are used to inform the decision about the choice of degree and allocation of supervisor.

Only approved research proposals may proceed to registration and receive supervision.

Please refer to the Faculty Handbook descriptions for the degree outline and rules applicable to the MCom specialising in Taxation in the field of International Taxation [CM031FTX09] and the LLM specialising in International Taxation [LM003CML14].

Programme convenors

Faculty of Law: Professor Johann Hattingh

Faculty of Commerce: Dr Alison Futter

Do I qualify?

The minimum entrance requirements are:

  • NQF level 8 qualification in Taxation; or
  • NQF level 8 qualification in Accounting, including taxation courses at that level; or
  • NQF level 8 qualification in Law, including taxation courses; or equivalent international qualification.

Professional and/or academic references for all applicants may be requested. A curriculum vitae and academic transcript are required on the application. An entrance exam or interview may be required.

How much will it cost?

Information regarding fees may be found in the Student Fees Handbook

How do I apply?

Click here to be directed straight to the UCT Online Application page. The programme code is CM031FTX09.

Please note: For administrative purposes, in the first year, all students are registered against the Commerce Faculty programme: programme code CM031FTX09.

By when must I apply?

Applications open in mid-April. We accept applications until 31 October of the year preceding the programme's start.

International Alliances

The programme benefits from the following international alliances.

  • International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD)
  • Advanced Diploma in International Taxation (UK) – through the Chartered Institute of Taxation

About the UCT Tax Unit for Fiscal Research

Throughout the two years, students are encouraged to participate in the activities of UCT’s Tax Unit for Fiscal Research and the local activities of the International Fiscal Association.

The Unit is based in the Faculties of Law and Commerce at the University of Cape Town. UCT is Africa’s highest-ranked university and amongst the top 200 universities in the world.

The Unit is interdisciplinary, being formed by academics with legal and commercial backgrounds. Several large research projects and consultancy work for government bodies and private entities are all undertaken in the Unit.

Academic staff associated with the Unit teach a substantial offering of tax courses across the Faculties of Law and Commerce, as well as organising and participating in conferences, seminars, and public engagements.