UK Tax History Lesson – How come the UK tax year ends on April 5th?

A long long time ago, 1582 to be exact, Pope Gregory Xiii grew tired of the inaccuracies in the existing ‘Julian’ calendar and ordered the calendar to be changed. The Julian calendar named after the late debatably great Julius Cesar had been in place since 42 BC.

Cesar’s calendar although reasonably accurate differed from the solar calendar by 11½ minutes. This was not a big problem at the start, however, after 500 years this small inaccuracy had started to build up. It built up in fact to be 10 days off the solar calendar. So with this in mind, Pope Gregory introduced the Gregorian calendar.

The Gregorian calendar reduced the length of the calendar year from 365.25 days to 365.2425, a reduction of 10 minutes 48 seconds per year! This and a few other tweaks ensured Pope Gregory’s calendar was a much more accurate time keeper. The Gregorian calendar was then introduced in Italy, Spain, Portugal and what was then the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth.

The Gregorian calendar was initially quite a slow burner in the British Empire, it was not introduced until 1752! By then the British calendar was 11 days off the rest of Europe, with this due to increase as time passed, the British knew it was time for a change!

On the old British calendar the tax year began on 25th March (the old New Year’s Day). In order to ensure against losing revenue it was decided by the British Treasury that the tax year which started on 25th March 1752 would be of the usual length (365 days) and therefore it would end on 4th April, the following tax year beginning on 5th April.

Time passed smoothly and most importantly accurately until 1800. Unfortunately 1800 was not a leap year in the new Gregorian calendar but would have been in the old Julian system. Thus the treasury moved the start of the UK tax year from the 5th to the 6th of April and it has remained there ever since!

We’ve tried to be as accurate as possible in telling this tale. If you are of a different opinion please post your thoughts below!

Comment (1)

  1. Richard says:

    Really interesting story.

    I’m sure at some point I shall win a pub quiz with that knowledge.

    Thank You!

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