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Why April the 6th?

By Michael Lester

Have you ever wondered why the Tax Year runs April to April rather than January to December?

This was a question recently posed to me by my lovely wife Alison. As in many things financial the answer is as fascinating as it is convoluted.

Our story starts in 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII ordered that the Julian calendar, which had been operative since 45BC, be updated. The reason for the change was the fact that the Julian calendar was some 11.5 minutes a year shorter than the solar calendar and by 1582, this small annual difference had amassed to the ‘loss’ of some 10 days.

The changes prompted by this review introduced what became known as the Gregorian calendar. Initially introduced across Italy, Spain, Portugal and what was then the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, it was not taken up in Britain, which remained with the Julian calendar.

Roll forward to 1752 when the British Government, still operating on the Julian Calendar and now 11 days behind the solar calendar, decided it was time to correct this difference and align with Europe (shades of Brexit).

However under the Julian calendar the British tax year began on the 25 March (the old New Year’s Day) and in order to ensure that there was no loss of tax revenue, it was decided by the British treasury that the current tax year, which had started had started on the 25 March, 1752, would still have 365 days and would, therefore, end on the 4 April 1753.

This meant that the new tax year would now start on the 5 April 1753 and that remained the position until 1800 when another astronomical timing issue impacted on our calendar.

In order to account for a very small difference in timing between the Gregorian calendar and the solar calendar it arose that whilst a leap year occurred every 4 years where the year ends in a double zero (1800, 1900, 2000 etc) there would be no leap day.

However as under the previous Julian calendar the 1800 would have had a leap day the treasury moved the start of the new tax year to the 6 April and it has stayed there ever since!

Source https://www.taxback.com/blog/uk-tax-history-lesson-uk-tax-year-ends-april-5th

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