The use of high-order polynomials in discontinuous Galerkin (DG) approximations to convection-dominated transport problems tends to cause a violation of the maximum principle in regions where the derivatives of the solution are large. In this paper, we express the DG solution in terms of Taylor basis functions associated with the cell average and derivatives at the center of the cell. To control the (derivatives of the) discontinuous solution, the values at the vertices of each element are required to be bounded by the means. This constraint is enforced using a hierarchical vertex-based slope limiter to constrain the coefficients of the Taylor polynomial in a conservative manner starting with the highest-order terms. The loss of accuracy at smooth extrema is avoided by taking the maximum of the correction factors for derivatives of order p and higher. No free parameters, oscillation detectors, or troubled cell markers are involved. In the case of a non-orthogonal Taylor basis, the same limiter is applied to the vector of discretized time derivatives before the multiplication by the off-diagonal part of the consistent mass matrix. This strategy leads to a remarkable gain of accuracy, especially in the case of simplex meshes. A numerical study is performed for a 2D convection equation discretized with linear and quadratic finite elements. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.