Have I still got time to use my 2013-14 Isa allowance? Should I?

 

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The Independent Online

There are those who think that if you don't use all your available tax allowances, you're refusing a gift from the Government.

It's true that it costs you nothing extra to stick cash in an individual savings account (Isa) compared to a standard deposit account from a bank or building society.

It's also true that if you don't use your allowance, you lose it. According to research by Unbiased, a site that promotes professional advice, some 49 million bank account holders will waste more than £1.1bn by midnight on Saturday by not moving their money into tax-efficient Isas.

That's right, the deadline is tonight. And in recognition of that fact, many Isa providers will stay open late to give you the maximum time to use your allowance.

But just because you may have until 11.55pm to open an Isa – although it's wisest to do so by 11.30pm to allow time for it to be processed by the midnight deadline – that doesn't mean you should rush to do so.

Bear in mind that the Isa limit is soaring to £15,000 in July. So if you've only got a few thousand pounds to stash away, you still have plenty of time to decide what to do with the money and still be able to put it into a tax-free home.

But if you have more than that, then you might want to rush to use this year's allowance before it disappears.

You may have even been waiting until the last minute before deciding whether to use the full, 2013-14 equity Isa allowance or put part of it in cash while you dither about the best investment opportunity.

Even if you are keen to use the current year's Isa tax-free allowance of £11,520, don't be persuaded to rush into choosing the wrong investment Isa ahead of the midnight deadline.

“If you feel you need more time but don't want to lose your allowance then open your stocks and shares Isa with an initial holding in cash,” suggests Jason Hollands of Bestinvest. “You can then invest in it later having first calmly reviewed your objectives and strategy.”

John Blowers, of Trustnet Direct, suggests spreading the risk: “A portfolio should spread exposure around various geographic markets and assets, helping balance out the peaks and troughs. With talk of a market correction still rife, this takes on added significance.”

If you only want a cash Isa, you should adopt a similar approach and buy some time by using an account that offers flexibility, advises Susan Hannums, of Savingschampion.co.uk.

“Savers are wise to opt for an easy-to-open Isa such as online or branch-based accounts, to ensure they don't miss out,” she said. “The important thing is to get the account opened and maximised this tax year. If the rate isn't competitive you can always transfer later, provided the account allows access.”

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