|Long title||An Act for Regulating the Commencement of the Year; and for Correcting the Calendar now in Use|
|Citation||24 Geo. 2 c. 23|
|Introduced by||Lord Chesterfield|
|Territorial extent||"In and throughout all his Majesty's dominions and countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America"|
Territorial extent of (original) subsequent repeals (to (i.e., after) the Anniversary Days Observance Act 1859): England and Wales, Scotland
|Royal assent||27 May 1751|
|Commencement||1 January 1752|
|Amended by||Calendar Act 1752, Anniversary Days Observance Act 1859, Statute Law Revision Act 1948, Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1971, Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1986|
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
|Text of the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 as in force today (including any amendments) within the United Kingdom, from legislation.gov.uk.|
The Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 (c.23) (also known as Chesterfield's Act after Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield) was an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain. The Act had two parts: first, it reformed the calendar of England[a] and the British Dominions so that the new legal year began on 1 January rather than 25 March (Lady Day); and, second, Great Britain and its Dominions adopted (in effect)[b] the Gregorian calendar, as already used in most of western Europe.
The Parliament held that the Julian calendar then in use, and the start of the year on 25 March, were
attended with divers inconveniences, not only as it differs from the usage of neighbouring nations, but also from the legal method of computation in Scotland, and from the common usage throughout the whole kingdom, and thereby frequent mistakes are occasioned in the dates of deeds and other writings, and disputes arise therefrom.
In England and Wales, the legal year 1751 was a short year of 282 days, running from 25 March to 31 December. 1752 began on 1 January. To align the calendar in use in England to that on the continent, the Gregorian calendar was adopted, and the calendar was advanced by 11 days: Wednesday 2 September 1752 was followed by Thursday 14 September 1752.[c] The year 1752 was a leap year so that it consisted of 355 days (366 days less 11 omitted).
As well as adopting the Gregorian rule for leap years, Pope Gregory's rules for the date of Easter were also adopted. However, with religious strife still on their minds, the British could not bring themselves to adopt the Catholic system explicitly: the Annexe to the Act established a computation for the date of Easter that achieved the same result as Gregory's rules, without actually referring to him. The algorithm, set out in the Book of Common Prayer as required by the Act, includes calculation of the Golden Number and the Sunday Letter, which (in the Easter section of the Book) were presumed to be already known. The Annexe to the Act includes the definition: "Easter-day (on which the rest depend) is always the first Sunday after the Full Moon, which happens upon, or next after the Twenty-first Day of March. And if the Full Moon happens upon a Sunday, Easter-day is the Sunday after." The Annexe subsequently uses the terms "Paschal Full Moon" and "Ecclesiastical Full Moon", making it clear that they only approximate to the real Full Moon.
Scotland had already partly made the change: its calendar year had begun on 1 January since 1600. The remainder of the act applied equally to Scotland, a part of the Kingdom of Great Britain since the Acts of Union 1707.
At the time, the Kingdom of Ireland was a semi-autonomous kingdom in a personal union with the Kingdom of Great Britain. So that the calendar in Ireland would remain harmonised with that of Great Britain, the Parliament of Ireland passed similarly worded legislation as the "Calendar (New Style) Act, 1750".
The Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 applied to Britain's American colonies and some British law, including the 1750 Act, is still applicable in some states. When American independence was declared in 1776, it was not practical for these former colonies to create an entirely new body of American law to replace British law. The practical solution adopted was to continue to apply British law as it stood in 1776 but subject to the proviso that it could be overridden by any subsequent provision of American law.
Florida provides a suitable example: the Territory was ceded by Spain to the United States in 1819. The new State of Florida repealed Spanish law and enacted a provision which said (and continues to say):
The common and statute law of England which are of a general and not a local nature ... down to the fourth day of July 1776, are declared to be in force in this state, provided the said statutes and common law be not inconsistent with the constitution and laws of the United States and the acts of the legislature of this state.-- Title I, Chapter 2, 2.01: Common law and certain statutes declared in force.
James Bryan Whitfield, a former Florida Supreme Court judge, together with others, produced in 1941 a comprehensive list of the relevant measures. This built on earlier work by Missouri. The list includes the key part of the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750.
Some states adopted as their common law the laws of England in 1607, predating the 1750 Act. 
Early Australian colonial legislation applied British law. Subsequently, various reviews have considered the relevance of old British statutes. Australian States eventually repealed British statutes but re-enacted those which remained relevant, such as the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750. For example, New South Wales passed the Imperial Acts Application Act 1969 No 30. Section 5 and Schedule 1 repeals various British statutes including the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750. At the same time section 16 continues the operation of the British Calendar Act by restating key parts and by referring to that Act for the details. Other Australian States passed similar measures.
New Zealand also passed early legislation at various times applying British law. New Zealand undertook a comprehensive review in the 1980s to clarify which statutes still applied, drawing on Australian research, and produced the Imperial Laws Application Act 1988. This did not repeal old British statutes and re-enact relevant measures. Instead section 1(1) says that British statutes listed in Schedule 1 "are hereby declared to be part of the laws of New Zealand". This includes the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750. Section 4 said that any other British statutes were not part of New Zealand law and so were, in effect, repealed.
Some history books say that some people rioted after the calendar change, asking that their "eleven days" be returned. However this is very likely a myth, based on only two primary sources: The World, a satirical journal of Lord Chesterfield; and a painting by William Hogarth.
Chesterfield was behind the Act. He wrote to his son, "Every numerous assembly is a mob, let the individuals who compose it be what they will. Mere sense is never to be talked to a mob; their passions, their sentiments, their senses and their seeming interests alone are to be applied to. Understanding have they collectively none." Here, he was boasting of his skill in having the Bill passed through the Lords; the 'mob' in question was his fellow peers.
When the son of the Earl of Macclesfield (who had been influential in passing the Act) stood for Parliament in Oxfordshire as a Whig in 1754, dissatisfaction with the calendar reform was one of a number of issues raised by his Tory opponents. In 1755, William Hogarth produced a painting (and an engraved print from the painting) loosely based on these elections, entitled An Election Entertainment, which shows a placard carrying the slogan "Give us our Eleven Days" (on floor at lower right). An example of the resulting incorrect history is by Ronald Paulson, author of Hogarth, His Life, Art and Times, who wrote that "the Oxfordshire people ... are specifically rioting, as historically the London crowd did, to preserve the 'Eleven Days' the government stole from them in September 1752 by changing the calendar".
Thus the "calendar riot" fiction was born. The election campaign depicted concluded in 1754, after a very lengthy contest between Court Whigs and Jacobite Tories. Every issue between the two factions was brought up, including the question of calendar reform. The Tories attacked the Whigs for every deviation, including their alleged favouritism towards foreign Jews and the "Popish" calendar. Hogarth's placard, part of a satire on the character of the debate, was not an observation of actual crowd behaviour.
There were, however, legitimate concerns lest tax and other payments arise any earlier under the new calendar than they would otherwise have done. Consequently, Provision 6 (Times of Payment of Rents, Annuities) of the Act stipulated that monthly or yearly payments would not become due until the dates that they originally would have done had the Julian calendar continued or, in the words of the Act, "[Times of Payment of Rents, Annuities] at and upon the same respective natural days and times as the same should and ought to have been payable or made or would have happened in case this Act had not been made".
This provision applied to defer payment of Window Tax which was a permanent tax. It did not apply to Land Tax which was re-enacted each year (see the next section below). The Land Tax Act for the year from 25 March 1752 became law after the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750 and therefore over-rode the provision governing the time of payment.
Several theories have been proposed for the odd beginning of the British tax year on 6 April. The one most commonly found on British tax websites stems from a book published in 1921 by Alexander Philip. In a brief passage Philip says that eleven days were added to the old tax year which began on 25 March 1752. Then from 1753 until 1799 the tax year began on 5 April. He goes on to say that in 1800 a further day was added so that thereafter the tax year began on 6 April. The extra day was added, he says, because 1800 had 366 days in the Julian calendar but only 365 in the Gregorian calendar. He does not say why it was necessary to add another day. Further, he continues, the tax year was not changed when a thirteenth Julian leap day was skipped in 1900, so the tax year in the United Kingdom still begins on 6 April. The passage is:
A curious instance of the persistence of the old style is to be found in the date of the financial year of the British Exchequer. Prior to 1752 that year officially commenced on 25th March. In order to ensure that if should always comprise a complete year the commencement of the financial year was altered to the 5th April. In 1800, owing to the omission of a leap year day observed by the Julian calendar, the commencement of the financial year was moved forward one day to 6th April, and 5th April became the last day of the preceding year. In 1900, however, this pedantic correction was overlooked, and the financial year is still held to terminate of 5th April, as it so happens that the Easter celebration occurs just about that time--indeed one result is that about one-half of the British financial years include two Easters and about one-half contain no Easter date.-- Alexander Philip, The Calendar: its history, structure and improvement
Philip does not give any reason for his view. He does not cite any legislation or other authority. It is also worth noting that the "financial year" is not the same as the income tax year. The financial year is statutorily defined as the year which ends on 31 March. See Schedule 1 Interpretation Act 1978, which repeats an earlier similar definition in section 22 Interpretation Act 1889. This is the year for government accounting and for corporation tax.
Jane Frecknall-Hughes, Professor of Accounting and Taxation at the University of Nottingham, takes the same view as Philip in a number of newspaper articles she has written. The Professor, like Philip, gives no reasons for her view. A good many websites for accountants have repeated versions of these articles.
Other commentators believe the Philip view is wrong and the correct explanation is that the old tax year used to begin on 26 March, the day after the quarter day. Hence, to deal with the omission of eleven days in September 1752, eleven days were eventually added to the start of the tax year and that led to a tax year beginning on 6 April. There was no need to add a further day in 1800. The taxes charged by the year (Land Tax and Window Tax) applied to a year "from" 25 March and, under a legal rule of interpretation dating back at least to Sir Edward Coke's landmark work of 1628, the Institutes of the Lawes of England, this meant the tax year began a day later on 26 March. Coke's book was written as a commentary on the 1481 treatise on property law by Sir Thomas Littleton. Hence the specialist use of "from" may originate back in the mists of time. The key passage in the Institutes is short:
But let us return to Littleton ... Touching on the time of the beginning of a lease for yeares, it is to be observed, that if a lease be made by indenture, bearing date 26 Maii &c to have and to hold for twenty one yeares, from the date, or from the day of the date, it shall begin on the twenty seventh day of May. [Emphasis added.]
Coke's Institutes were an important source of education for lawyers and editions were published up to the nineteenth century. This why tax acts in the eighteenth century used "from" 25 March in an exclusive sense to mean a period beginning on the following day. Numerous court cases have arisen because the technical meaning of from a date in acts and documents has been misunderstood. The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel, which drafts legislation today, has published online drafting guidance which says the "from a date" formulation is ambiguous and should not be used.
Perhaps the most important contemporary authority for the alternative view is in An Exposition of the Land Tax by Mark A Bourdin of the Inland Revenue which was published in 1854. In a footnote on page 34 he says:
"The year of assessment is from 26th March to the 25 March following.-- Mark A Bourdin. 
Bourdin does not use from in the strict sense required by Coke but it is clear that he believes the Land Tax year begins on 26 March and ends on the following 25 March.
Some commentators suggest eleven days were added to the tax year which began in March 1752 to avoid the loss of tax in the short year caused by the omission of eleven days in September 1752. Professor Frecknall-Hughes takes this view as did, remarkably, the Inland Revenue in a note issued on the 200th anniversary of income tax in 1999. In fact the British tax authorities did not add eleven days to the end of the tax year which began on 26 March 1752. The eighteenth century Treasury did not need to add eleven days because the taxes charged by the year (Land Tax and Window Tax) captured artificial, deemed income, and not actual income. For Land Tax, the more important of the two, this was fixed amounts linked to the market rental value of property in 1692 when the tax was introduced. For Window Tax it was so much per window. You paid the same regardless of the year length. Window Tax was a permanent tax and its year did not change till 1758 when the tax was recast and the tax year moved by eleven days to run "from" 5 April. That meant a year which began on 6 April because of Sir Edward Coke's 1628 interpretation rule.
The Land Tax year did not change and continued to run from 25 March. Land Tax was re-enacted each year throughout the eighteenth century until 1798 when it was made permanent. Moreover, the entire code, running to 80 pages, was re-enacted each year until 1798. Hence there was ample opportunity to revise the date on which the Land Tax year began but no change was made. Because of the transitory value of the annual Act, later editions of the statutes which are available online, omitted the Land Tax Acts. However, several are available online including the last annual Land Tax Act for the year for the year from 25 March 1798. This is available in two versions: the original and the version which reflects some later amendments. The National Archives at Kew holds printed statute series which include copies of all the Land Tax Acts. The 1798 Act uses the standard "from" formula and says in section 2:
that the sum of one million nine hundred eighty-nine thousand six hundred seventy-three pound seven shillings and ten-pence farthing ... shall be raised, levied and paid unto his Majesty within the space of one year from the twenty-fifth day of March 1798.
The following year William Pitt made Land Tax permanent with the Land Tax Perpetuation Act 1798. Section 3, for example, refers to "an assessment made in the year ending on the twenty fifth day of March 1799", which confirms the Land Tax year begins on 26 March. The Land Tax year remained essentially unchanged until the tax was abolished in 1963.
When William Pitt introduced the first income tax in 1799 he followed the Window Tax precedent and adopted a year which ran "from" 5 April. That meant, once again, a year which began on 6 April and this has remained the start of the year ever since. Examination of tax acts confirms that there was no change in 1800. For example, Addington's Income Tax Act 1803 continued to apply "from" 5 April--in this case from 5 April 1803. Again, this meant a year beginning on 6 April 1803. Since taxing statutes before and after 1800 used the from 5 April formula to define the year it is clear that a day was not added in 1800. Compare the Window Tax Act 1758 and Addington's Income Tax Act 1803.
The legal analysis is buttressed by accounting practice from time immemorial. A quarter day, such as Lady Day on 25 March, marked the end of an accounting period and not the beginning. This view is taken by leading authorities including The Exchequer Year,A Handbook of Dates, The Pipe Roll Society and Dr Robert Poole in two works. In the 1995 work Calendar Reform Dr Poole cites Treasury Board Papers at the National Archives under reference T30 12 and explains that the accounts carried on being drawn up to the same four days in the real world but the dates had moved on by eleven days. He says:
... so the national accounts continued to be made up to end on the Old Style quarter-days of 5 January, 5 April, 5 July and 10 October.
These were the old quarter days of 25 December, 25 March, 24 June and 29 September plus eleven days. Dr Poole's analysis is confirmed by a minute of the Board of Customs on 19 September 1752, shortly after the omission of the eleven days 3 to 13 September 1752 and not long before the first quarter day affected by the omission--Michaelmas 29 September 1752. The minute says:
On the correcting of the Kalendar all Quarterly Accounts and Payments of the Customs of what nature or kind 'soever are to be closed on 10th October--5th January--5th April and 5th July, And the Annual Accounts are to be made out from 5th January to 5th January in every Year.
It was not until 1860 that income tax legislation consistently adopted a formulation of the kind recommended today by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to identify the income tax year. For 1860-61 the tax was applied "for a year commencing on 6 April 1860".
Section 48(3) of the Taxes Management Act 1880 provided a definition of the income tax year for the first time:
Every assessment shall be made for the year commencing and ending on the days herein specified. (3) As regards income tax--In Great Britain and Ireland from the sixth day of April to the following fifth day of April inclusive..
Curiously the draftsman here incorrectly uses "from" 6 April but still makes the year clear.
Section 28 Finance Act 1919 provided a new shorthand way to refer to the tax year:
"The expression 'the year 1919-20' means the year of assessment beginning on the sixth day of April 1919, and any expression in which two years are similarly mentioned means the year of assessment beginning on the sixth day of April in the first mentioned of those years".
Finally, following a review aimed at simplifying tax legislation, a new definition appeared in section 4 Income Tax Act 2007:
(1) Income tax is charged for a year only if an Act so provides.
(2) A year for which income tax is charged is called a 'tax year'.
(3) A tax year begins on 6 April and ends on the following 5 April.
(4) 'The tax year 2007-08' means the tax year beginning on 6 April 2007 (and any corresponding expression in which two years are similarly mentioned is to be read in the same way).