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PhD Success

John Pearce’s PhD was on ‘The Determinants of the Forms of Income Tax Legislation 1907-65: their Ascertainment and Importance’.  In 1907, income tax was unequivocally declared permanent; and, in 1965, the introduction of corporation tax affected the scope of that tax.  This thesis investigates the forms of income tax legislation between those dates with the aim of ascertaining the determinants of those forms and assessing their importance.  The forms of income tax legislation are divided into primary and subordinate legislation; and (within primary legislation) into Finance Acts, programme Acts, Consolidation Acts and Codification Acts. The government had insufficient parliamentary time to enact all the primary legislation that it wished; and some forms of primary legislation were better placed for enactment than others.  The result was that the United Kingdom polity (an expression used to denote the state considered as a political entity) operated with a default setting under which the government’s legislation was enacted only in part, and with the different forms of primary legislation being used to a very unequal extent.  This default setting was overridden only rarely; and only in part could subordinate legislation make good the shortfall in primary legislation. It is concluded that the business that the United Kingdom polity could usefully transact exceeded its capacity to transact that business.  Business was likely to be favoured if it was easy to implement, urgent, or had important champions; and decisions to be taken for short-term reasons.  These conclusions explain the lopsided manner in which income tax was enacted and other features of the law and practice relating to income tax.  The conclusions may also hold good for other areas of government activity where there was much legislation; and are consistent with the view that the two world wars were of major importance for the development of the United Kingdom polity during this period.

Dr Yiu Yu Butt’s PhD was on ‘The History of Hong Kong Stamp Duty and its Influence on the Modern Law’.  In 1866, the Hong Kong colonial government imposed stamp duty on written instruments. The tax was imposed for 132 years during the British rule of Hong Kong and was retained by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region after the 1997 transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from Britain to China. Despite the large number of textbooks written on the application of the contemporary Hong Kong stamp duty law, little is known about the driving forces that lay behind the first imposition of stamp duty in Hong Kong and the forces that shaped its development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Little is revealed by the successes or failures of various stamp duty laws enacted to fulfil these forces. In order to deal with the knowledge gaps, this study uses the legal historical method and the legal comparative method to reconstruct an interpretation of stamp duty legal history for investigation. The study reveals that the first imposition of the tax was driven by the primary imperative to raise revenue followed by a secondary demand for social equity. It also reveals that the provisions of the first Hong Kong stamp duty legislation were influenced by local political demands occasioned by events leading to the American Revolution in the eighteenth century. The study demonstrates that, along with the dominant financial impetus, other social, economic, political, sustainability and pragmatic forces also shaped the stamp duty system under British rule. Social and economic forces supplemented the financial impetus from the 1960s onwards as key drivers for stamp duty legislative change. The study examines the explicit and discerned objectives of various historical Hong Kong Stamp Ordinances in terms of the actual outcomes. The analysis reveals many novel lessons in stamp duty system design. The study also demonstrates that Hong Kong should not abolish its stamp duty system at the present time.