Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) enter a new phase from today, 1 July 2014. At present, ISA contributions for the 2014/15 tax year are capped at £11,880. The entire amount can be invested in a stocks & shares ISA, or up to £5,940 can be saved into a Cash ISA. However, from today, the ‘New ISA’ (NISA) limit will increase to £15,000 and you can invest as much as you like of this allowance in cash, stocks & shares or a combination of the two. Investors will also be able to transfer ISA savings from previous years freely between stocks & shares and cash.
Moreover, from 1 July, any interest on cash held within a stocks & shares NISA will be free of tax. This means that, from 1 July, you could have just one NISA, rather than separate NISAs for cash and stocks & shares. This simplicity might be attractive to some investors although, you should not assume you will receive the best rate of interest on the cash element, and it might be worth having a separate cash NISA if you want a competitive rate. You can also transfer your NISAs freely between providers – subject to any penalties that might be applied by your existing provider – but you can only have one cash NISA and one stocks & shares NISA in any single tax year.
Any ISA subscription made between 6 April and 30 June 2014 will be counted against the £15,000 NISA subscription and you will not be allowed to open up a new NISA for the current tax year from 1 July. Instead, you will have to top up the existing account. Do check with your provider’s terms and conditions – particularly if you have already opened a fixed-rate cash ISA.
The range of investments that can be held within a NISA is also expanding – for example, investors will be able to hold corporate bonds with less than five years left to maturity. This expansion is likely to lead to an increase in new products from providers that, in turn, will provide greater choice for savers. One thing will not change, however – once it’s gone, it’s gone. At the end of each tax year, you lose any unused ISA allowance, so make sure you act in good time and, if you are unsure about anything, do seek professional advice.