This tax year, make your Isa allowance count

You have until 11.59pm on 5 April to use your Isa allowance. But try to do it earlier

Simon Read
Personal Finance Editor
Wednesday 23 March 2016 16:01 GMT
Don't think about it for too long - you could miss out
Don't think about it for too long - you could miss out (Reuters)

You’ve got just two weeks until the end of the tax year which means just 13 more days after today to make the most of your 2015-16 tax allowances. If you don’t use the allowances by midnight on Tuesday 5 April, you lose them forever.

But long gone are the days when you needed to leg it round to your local bank or investment company to start or top up an Isa or pension before the deadline. Now you can simply leave it to the last minute, safe in the knowledge that as long as your laptop or PC doesn’t crash and your broadband holds up you’ll be able to make your tax-free investment at a couple of minutes to midnight if you want.

And people do. Despite having the whole of the financial year to add to their tax-free savings, many do, surprisingly leave it to the very last minute. “We saw the final Isa subscription last year come in at 11:54pm, just six minutes ahead of the new tax year!” reports Jason Hollands, managing director of Tilney Bestinvest.

“Online investing has, in effect, enabled some investors to play a game of roulette with valuable tax allowances,” he points out, adding that it’s a risky game when you consider the potential for gremlins to hit an internet connection or bank security teams blocking an unusually large transaction.

Make your investment decisions now and act on them as soon as you can, is his sensible advice. But if you’re still undecided where to invest the current year’s Isa allowance, you should still act.

“The immediate decision isn’t where to invest or if it is a good time to invest at all,” says Mr Hollands. “All you should worry about is securing the allowance in the first place. Fund your Isa or pension with cash and you can come back later to decide where to invest it when you are more confident in your plan.”

Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown reckons it could be a good time to be investing. “The UK stock market is 10 per cent cheaper than it was twelve months ago, and while this won’t prompt many cheers from investors, it means they can now put money to work in the market at a lower level.”

The current valuation on the UK stock market is in the middle of its historical range, so it’s not actually cheap or expensive. The fear is that, in the short term, markets may take a turn for the worse, especially ahead of the Brexit vote.

When making any investment decision it’s essential to know your goals, advises Adrian Lowcock, head of investing at AXA Self Investor

“Ask yourself what you want to achieve with your investments,” he says. “You need to know your short and long term goals and keep reviewing them and revisiting them each time you review your portfolio.”

But if you’re concerned about future fluctuations, you could put your money in a cash Isa to begin with and drip feed it into the stock market from it over the next few months to smooth out the daily ups and downs of stock market volatility.

Opening an ISA online can take just take five minutes - as long as you have prepared ahead and have all the information you need. When investing in Isas or pensions, you’ll need to your National Insurance. If you can’t remember it you can either find it on correspondence from HMRC or get it from your company payroll department.

You’ll also need to have sufficient cleared funds in your bank account to make the payment. You can’t use a credit card to fund an Isa or pension and the payment must come from a UK bank or building society account of the person applying.

You can put up to £15,240 into an Isa in the current tax year - as long as you do it by 5 April! Then again you have another similar allowance starting on 6 April. Investing early in the new tax year will give your investments a head start and avoid the potential misery of rushing to meet the deadline next year.

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