1. Maximise your ISA savings
Each year we all enjoy an Individual Savings Account (ISA) allowance, which we can save or invest and enjoy the returns tax free. For 2014/15 you’re allowed to put up to £15,000 in cash, stocks and shares or a combination of both. But if you don’t use your allowance by midnight on 5th April you’ll lose it.
2. Boost your pension
The annual pension allowance is the maximum you can contribute to any of your personal pensions in one year without attracting any tax. For 2014/15 the annual allowance is £40,000 but you can use the allowance from the previous three years. Pension contributions get income tax relief at your marginal rate so it’s worth making contributions if you can.
3. Check out your personal allowance
The personal income tax allowance (the amount of income we get tax-free) is £10,000 for most this year unless you were born before 6th April 1948 or earn over £100,000. The allowance for those that have an adjusted net income of £100,000 or more reduces by £1 for every £2 over the threshold. Those born before 6th April 1948 have a higher personal allowance of £10,500 depending on their income.
If you’re entitled to age-related tax allowances you’ll need to fill in the P161 form. Any part of the personal allowance not used by 5th April 2015 will be lost so you should ensure you’re getting the maximum benefit.
4. Give away money
Inheritance Tax (IHT) is due if a person’s estate is worth more than £325,000 when they die. Currently IHT is charged at 40% on anything above this threshold.
But you’re allowed to gift £3,000 a year without attracting any IHT while you are still alive. Previous years’ allowances can be rolled over up to a maximum of £6,000 per person. So that means for married couples and civil partners who have made no previous gifts, £12,000 could be given away this tax year completely free of IHT.
5. Shield your profit
Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is a levy on the profits made when you sell or ‘dispose of’ an asset that’s increased in value. It’s charged at 18% for basic rate taxpayers or 28% for higher rate taxpayers.
You can avoid CGT on certain assets as well as on gains that are under your annual tax-free allowance. The annual CGT exemption for individuals in 2014/15 is £11,000 or £5,450 for trusts, but like ISAs if you don’t use it you’ll lose it! For more read Ways to avoid Capital Gains Tax.
6. Save for your kids
A Junior ISA (JISA) is a tax-free savings vehicle for children under 18. The 2014/15 JISA limit is £4,000 and, like a regular adult ISA, it can be saved as cash, stocks and shares or both. A JISA can be set up for a child by someone who has parental responsibility but friends and relatives can contribute to it, which might make it easier to make the most of the allowance.
It’s worth bearing in mind that 16 and 17 years olds qualify for both a JISA and adult ISA allowance, which means for 2014/15 a maximum of £19,000 can be invested.
7. Invest in small companies
Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs) allow people to invest in small expanding companies. They’re attractive as dividends are paid tax-free, there’s no CGT to pay when you sell and each year investors can put up to £200,000 into new subscriptions and benefit from 30% income tax relief. The VCT must be held for five years to qualify for relief though. This type of investment tends to be high risk so they won’t be for everyone, but if you’re a seasoned investor ready for a long-term commitment it might be for you.