All adults in the UK can invest up to £11,880 into an individual savings account (ISA) for the first part of the 2014/2015 tax year. The full amount can be invested in a stocks and shares ISA or up to half (£5,940) can be put into a cash ISA. It's a good idea to use as much of your ISA allowance as you can afford to each year because returns are tax-free and you can't carry over any unused ISA allowance to the following tax year.
But, in his 2014 Budget statement the Chancellor confirmed that, from July 1, 2014, a New ISA (NISA) would be introduced with a tax-free allowance of £15,000. From this date the distinction between cash and stocks and shares ISAs will also be scrapped. So if you want, you can hold the full £15,000 in cash. You can top up to this new allowance from July 1, 2014.
The tax year runs from April 6 to April 5 the following year and you have until midnight on April 5 to use up that year’s allowance (though the final deadline may depend on the account and the provider). Traditionally, the annual ISA allowance increases each year in line with inflation.
For Junior ISAs, you can pay in £3,840 in the current tax year and this will rise to £4,000 from July 1.
With a fixed-rate cash ISA, the interest rate will be fixed and you will usually earn a higher rate of interest than with an easy access cash ISA. However, you will need to be prepared to lock away your money for a year or more. The longer you are happy to leave your money untouched, the higher the rate of interest will be.
When a new tax year starts, it's well worth investing your ISA allowance as soon as possible if you can afford to so that you see the full benefits. For example, if on April 6 2013 you paid your allowance of £5,760 into a cash ISA paying 3%, by April 6 2014 you would have £172.80 in interest.
However, if you only put in the full allowance on March 6 2014, you'd have just £14.21 in interest by April 6 2014.
Alternatively, if you'd prefer to invest your money in a stocks and shares ISA, there are thousands of different investment funds to choose from. It's a good idea to speak to an Independent Financial Advisor (IFA) first as they will be able to advise you on which investments suit your needs best. However, you will have to pay for this advice.
Bear in mind that with a stock market investment, the value can fall as well as rise so you may lose money. Higher risk investments have the potential to bring you larger returns, but they are also more volatile. It's well worth choosing a variety of investment funds to help spread the risk.
Getting the best deal
If you're still contemplating where to invest your ISA allowance, MoneySupermarket's free independent comparison service compares hundreds of different ISA deals to help you find the right one for you. It's easy to use and is a quick way of comparing the best deals on the market.