Britain Adopts Gregorian Calendar
The 14th of September 1752 AD
In the late 16th century Pope Gregory XIII issued a papal bull which reformed the calendar in order to correct an accumulated error in the timing of Easter, the most important Christian festival.
As with decimal currency and weights and measures, Britain lagged (and lags) behind much of the rest of the continent which changed far quicker – though Russia kept to the Julian version until after the revolution of 1917. The situation was finally changed in Britain by the Earl of Chesterfield who pushed a reforming act through Parliament in 1750. Thus in 1752 we leapt from Wednesday September 2 to Thursday September 14.
Legend has it that there were riots at the supposed loss of 11 days, though many believe this to be a myth arising out of a misinterpretation of a painting by Hogarth satirising an election in Oxfordshire . It seems probable, however, that the strange date for the start of our tax year, April 6, arises out of this change and the disgruntlement of tax and rent payers: the old tax year began on Lady Day, March 25, which was until the reform the official start of the new year. Had we stuck with March 25 in the year after the reform rent payers would have been short-changed, paying for a year that was 11 days light; and taxpayers shouldering their burden 11 days sooner than normal.
An alternative explanation for April 6 as the start of the financial year is that tax lawyers and treasury civil servants prefer to make everything as complicated as possible to facilitate confusion in the populace and the courts and provide themselves with employment, an idea our tax legislation over the last several centuries does nothing to refute.
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