Belfast Telegraph

Time to start planning for the new tax year and new opportunities

By Simon Read

We all hate deadlines. So I want to give you plenty of notice of this one: it's just over four weeks until the end of the tax year. So what? So you need to start planning to take advantage of this year's tax allowances and, if you're 55 or over, preparing for the new pension freedoms that come into effect on April 6.

The main tax handout you should be thinking about is your 2014-15 ISA allowance - especially as they have became much more flexible since last July. Now you can transfer cash from savings accounts to investments and back again within your ISA.

Why should savers be using ISAs? Because of the tax benefits.

If you're a basic-rate taxpayer, the return you can get outside an ISA is worth 20% less than within the tax-free environment. If you're a higher-rate taxpayer, it is worth 40% less.

In other words, fail to put your savings into an ISA and you're handing cash to the government.

Just bear this in mind: if you don't take up the current year's ISA allowance by April 5, you lose it.

Meanwhile, the new pension freedoms announced by the Government in last year's Budget come into effect on April 6.

From then on, people aged 55 and over will be able to choose what to do with the cash in their pension pot rather than being forced to buy an annuity as they were up to now.

You'll be able to take the whole lot in one go, take smaller sums when needed or take a quarter tax-free and a regular, taxable income from the rest.

But it seems that confusion reigns among consumers about their options.

That's hardly surprising as the policy has been introduced relatively quickly.

And it has also left the financial services industry throughout the UK scrabbling to come up with new-style retirement options.

For anyone looking around for more help or information, the Government is developing a website to assist people at

Belfast Telegraph