The Tax Year Endeth

April 5th 2005

I love the Inland Revenue and the concept of a tax year which is different to a universally accepted calendar – only in the UK could we have such a bizarre and eccentric concept where the tax year ends on 5th April. But this is how that happened:

In the 12th century the governments of the day discovered that a year was 365 days in length and they decided in their wisdom that a year should start on the 23th March. The only logic to this was that if Jesus was born on the 25th December, then Mary must have gotten pregnant on the 25th March. This worked very well until 1750 when it was decided to bring calendars into line with the Gregorian calendar which was more accurate. Gregory was the Pope at the time and he had already introduced this calendar into catholic countries.

So it was decided to change over the calendar during 1752, and that the New Year would start on the 1st January 1753. However there was a public outcry claiming that 11 days had been lost (the government had effectively done away with September 2nd – September 14th 1752, so that they could even things up a bit). So in order to counteract this public opinion (perhaps there was a general election looming?) the government said, well OK, we’ll compromise and so for this year only we’ll add the 11 days back on so that the year won’t end on March 25th as usual – but it will end on 5th April: being March 25th plus 11 days.

This ‘one year’ only practice continued for a couple of hundred years or so until 1970 when the official year end was confirmed at last by statute (The Income and Corporation Taxes Act) – unfortunately the year end was confirmed not as 31st December, but – you guessed it – 5th April.