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Ever Wondered Why the Tax Year in the UK Starts on 6th April?

Written by Jon Cooper

Have you ever wondered why the tax year in the United Kingdom runs from 6th April to 5th April?  The reason is steeped in history.

Prior to 1752, the New Year’s Day in Britain used to be in on 25th March, the Spring Quarter day, and the tax year started on the same day.

Back in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII had reformed the calendar from the Julian predecessor to the new Gregorian calendar.  To improve accuracy, the length of a year was slightly reduced.

Britain was slow to adopt this change – by 1752 their calendar was eleven days out of sync from the rest of Europe.

To correct this, Wednesday 2nd September 1752 was followed by Thursday 14th September 1752, a change that literally led to riots on the streets due to the lack of compensation for the loss of income from the short working month.

The Treasury, mindful of this public fury, moved the start of the next tax year back by eleven days to 5th April 1753 so that the populous was not paying a full year of tax for only 354 days.

Although, as part of the change to the Gregorian calendar, New Year’s Day was moved to 1st January, the quarter days still are used in the determining when agricultural and commercial rents are payable.

The adjustment in the Gregorian calendar to slightly reduce the effective length of each year was to stop the century years from being a leap year, as they were under the Julian calendar.  As a result, 1800 was a day shorter than it would have been.  To reflect this, the Treasury moved the start of the tax year back by a day to 6th April 1800 and it has continued to be 6th April ever since!

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