With just over 7 weeks until the end of the tax year, now is the time to consider making good use of your ISA allowance if you have not done so already. Considering ways to shelter your hard earned cash from the tax man should be a top priority, and so this ISA season period between now and the end of the tax year is an important time for savers and investors.
To help you act and act fast, our head of savings and investments, Oliver Roylance-Smith, has put together his Top 10 tips for the 2017 ISA season, so there can be no excuse for missing out…
Tip 1 – Don’t miss any deadlines
Before you do anything else ISA-related, make sure you remember the most important end of tax year deadline which is midnight on 5th April. This is the main deadline to remember since it marks the latest date for using your ISA allowance within the current 2016/17 tax year. Remember that you cannot backdate your ISA allowance once this deadline has passed – if you don’t use it, you lose it.
Also look out for other deadlines which may apply. Many ISA providers will need your application before this date, whilst some ISA plans have an earlier deadline for ISA transfers. Some may also offer limited funding and may close early if they become oversubscribed.
Tip 2 – Know your limits…
At the start of each financial year, HMRC set a limit on the amount each individual can put into an ISA over the course of the next twelve months, between 6th April and the following 5th April. This is known as the ISA allowance. The ISA allowance for the current tax year (2016/17) stands at £15,240.
Tip 3 – Maximise your ISA allowance
You can put your entire ISA allowance into a Cash ISA, a Stocks & Shares ISA (Investment ISA) or the new Innovative Finance ISA, or any combination thereof, i.e. if you decide to use some of the allowance in one type of ISA, you can also put any remaining balance into either or both of the other types, provided the combined total is no more than the £15,240 ISA allowance. Also remember that this allowance is per person (over the age of 16 for a Cash ISA, and age 18 for an Investment ISA and Innovative Finance ISA), so a couple can invest up to £30,480 in total this tax year.
Tip 4 – Use next year’s £20,000
The ISA allowance will increase to £20,000 from 6th April 2017, so if you want to go one step better than making sure you beat this tax year’s deadline, why not sort out the following year’s ISA allowance as well? Investec Bank for example have Double ISA functionality on all of their current plans, which means you can apply for both 2016/17 and 2017/18 tax years through one application. So why not start as you mean to go on and get organised right at the start of the new tax year? – with a combined ISA allowance of up to £35,240 over the two tax years (that’s £70,480 per couple), this means one less thing to worry about as well as getting the beneficial tax treatment for the full tax year.
Tip 5 – Consider the impact of current ISA savings rates
Despite the generous increases to the overall ISA allowance in recent years, it is not all good news, especially for cash savers. This is because the increases have coincided with some of the lowest Cash ISA savings rates on record, with none paying more than the current rate of inflation (1.6%, as measured by the Consumer Price Index). Therefore many Cash ISA savers are either losing money in real terms, or having to consider taking on more risk with their capital. As a consequence, more and more ISA savers are looking towards the Stocks & Shares ISA, which has seen record subscription numbers in the last couple of years. Please note that Stocks & Shares ISAs put your capital at risk and should generally be considered as a longer term option.
Tip 6 – Remember the Personal Savings Allowance
Remember that since the start of the current tax year (6th April 2016), most people receive a personal tax free allowance for interest earnings on savings. For basic rate taxpayers, this is set at £1,000 each tax year, whilst higher rate taxpayers get an allowance of £500. Since non-Cash ISA savings rates are normally much higher than Cash ISA rates, and the interest earned by many savers now falls within the Personal Savings Allowance, this has also contributed to higher numbers using their ISA allowance for investments in the hunt for higher returns.
Tip 7 – Think about tax free income
Although the personal savings allowance has resulted in many savers not having to worry as much about the impact of tax on their overall returns, there are still other considerations and those who have existing ISAs, are higher (or additional) rate tax payers, or who might receive high levels of income from their capital in the future, should all think about using ISAs to receive tax free income. Not only does this income not need to be declared on a tax return, but income from ISAs is not included in the personal savings allowance.
Tip 8 – Review existing ISAs
It’s not in your ISA provider’s best interest to offer you the best deal year after year, and don’t rely on them making sure you are aware that your rate has gone down or that a better account or alternative investment is available because it probably won’t happen, even if it is available from the same provider. Interest rates have been in steady decline, especially for existing customers, and once you’ve deposited your hard earned cash, your ISA provider knows from experience that you’re unlikely to get round to switching providers even if your rate ceases to be competitive. Don’t be that person! It’s down to you to review your existing ISAs.
Tip 9 – Take advantage of ISA transfers
Many of us already have existing ISAs, however, like so many other savers and investors, you may find that your ISA is no longer paying a competitive rate or your investments are underperforming – this is where the ISA transfer can help. You can transfer all previous ISA holdings and most allow you to do this without charge, although don’t forget to check whether there are penalties from your existing provider. Remember that now you can transfer between Cash ISAs and Stocks & Shares ISAs without any restriction, which means that you can choose to keep all of your ISA savings and/or your investments in one place.
Tip 10 – Understand what your ISA could achieve
When considering why to try and maximise your ISA allowance, apart from sheltering your income or growth from the tax man, it is important to understand how much you could achieve over time. For example, if you had invested the maximum into an Investment ISA since the 1999/2000 tax year, and it had grown at 5% each year, you would now have a lump sum of over £250,000. This is a significant amount, with no additional liability to income or capital gains tax. Please note that the tax efficiency of ISAs is based on current tax law which is subject to change in the future.
Start a new ISA or transfer your current ISA now
The range of ISA options to choose from is significant and changing day by day in the run up to 5th April. As the end of the tax year approaches, Cash ISA providers in particular will try and persuade you that their offering is the best destination for your hard-earned money, despite this being a period of record low savings. Our range of Cash ISAs, Investment ISAs and Innovative Finance ISAs is constantly being updated and many of the savings accounts and investments are available as new ISAs and accept ISA transfers. Some also have Double ISA functionality, so you can use next year’s ISA allowance early. So start as you mean to go on, review your options carefully and make sure you make the most out of the tax-efficient returns on offer by taking action now…
Please note that this information is based on current law and practice which is subject to change.
No news, feature article or comment should be seen as a personal recommendation to invest. Prior to making any decision to invest, you should ensure that you are familiar with the risks associated with a particular investment. If you are at all unsure of the suitability of a particular investment, both in respect of its objectives and its risk profile, you should seek independent financial advice.
Tax treatment of ISAs depends on your individual circumstances and legislation which are subject to change in the future. ISA transfer charges may apply, please check with your provider.
The value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the full amount invested. Different types of investment carry different levels of risk and may not be suitable for all investors.