Why the 6 April?

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Ever wondered why the UK income tax year starts on the 6 April ?

 

Well wonder no more and read on!

 

Many countries choose to start their tax years on 1 January.  A logical choice you might think.   In fact amongst the major nations the UK rather stands out with its choice of 6 April.  Ireland in fact used to also have a 6 April start date but moved this to 1 January as recently as 2001.  The reasons for this are of course, as with many things in the UK, all rather historic.

In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII ordered a change from the Julian calendar to what became known as the Gregorian Calendar.  The Julian calendar (named after Julius Caesar) had existed for some 1600 years but it had a minor flaw in that it was different to the solar calendar by around 12 minutes per year.  So by 1582 the Julian Calendar was behind the solar calendar by 10 days.  The Gregorian calendar solved this issue by changing the frequency of leap years each century.

History tells us of course that the UK hasn't at times exactly had the strongest of relationships with the head of the Catholic Church!   So the UK went its own way from Europe (this sounds familiar!) and remained with the Julian Calendar.  For the next 170 years there was a difference between the UK and Europe of 10 days and then this increased to 11 in 1752 with the first variation in leap years in the Gregorian calendar.

For centuries before this, New Years Day in the UK was on March 25th - "Lady Day" (the date of the announcement by the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would become the mother of Jesus Christ).  New Years Day was also the start of the tax year.  

In 1752 the UK finally decided to align its calendar with the rest of Europe and move New Years Day to the 1 January and to lose the 11 days different in the calendars.  Bizarrely in September 1752 the 2 September was followed by the 14th September!   So at the stroke of a pen the year was shortened to 354 days.  But the Government of the day didn't adjust the taxes payable and expected 365 days worth of taxes to be paid.  People took to the streets in protest.

The Treasury - always with a mind on its tax revenues and not in the mood for compromise - decided that the tax year should remain one of 365 days and so the beginning of the next tax year was moved forward 11 days to 5 April.  Then in 1800, with a precedent having been set for moving the tax year, they did it again (as there would have been a leap year in the Julian Calendar but not one in the Gregorian Calendar) by a single day with a leap year for tax purposes but not one in the calendar.  Sense prevailed in 1900 and the movement of days was abandoned.

So there you have it.  The 6 April was set as the date and Britain was in glorious isolation on its tax year start date !