Stocks and shares ISA deadline

Use it or lose it: Why the stocks and shares ISA deadline matters if you want to maximise your tax-free investment allowances.

Even if the dates of the UK’s tax year usually pass you by, if you have money in ISAs, it’s worth putting the end of the tax year in your diary. It can act as a reminder to make sure you take full advantage of the tax breaks available on ISA savings and investments. Here’s why it’s important.

What is the stocks and shares ISA deadline?

Every year, you have an ISA allowance, which is the maximum amount you an contribute towards your ISAs in a single tax year. Since April 2017, the annual allowance has been £20,000. Your allowance can be split across the 4 types of ISA: cash, stocks and shares, innovative finance and lifetime ISAs (the cap on a lifetime ISA is £4,000).

The stocks and shares ISA deadline is the last date (and time) at which you can make contributions for a given tax year.

What is the ISA deadline for the 2024/2025 tax year?

For the 2024/2025 tax year, the ISA deadline is midnight on 5 April. This is the latest you can pay money into your stocks and shares ISA if you want to take full advantage of this year’s ISA allowance.

It’s a good idea not to leave making a contribution until the very last minute, in case there are any delays or problems with your payment.

Does the stocks and shares ISA deadline change every year?

No. The UK tax year runs from 6 April until 5 April in the following calendar year. Your annual ISA allowance always expires at the end of the tax year, so the stocks and shares ISA deadline is always 5 April.

Why does the stocks and shares ISA deadline matter?

The stocks and shares ISA deadline matters because if you don’t use your full ISA allowance in a given tax year, you lose it. And this matters because an ISA is a tax-efficient way to save, since you don’t pay any tax (such as income tax, capital gains tax and dividend tax) on returns you make from ISA investments.

If you miss the deadline, you could miss out on being able to benefit from the maximum tax breaks available.

You might assume that if you don’t currently have much to save or invest, it doesn’t matter too much if you miss the deadline. After all, there’s always next year.

But there’s no predicting what the next year will hold – a change in circumstances could leave you able to pay in the full whack of £20,000. And, if you’ve waited to pay in money that you could have paid in the previous year, you may have less allowance left to use.

Plus, while the annual ISA allowance has been £20,000 for several years, there’s no guarantee the government won’t scale back the generosity of this tax break. So, as much as you can, make hay while the fiscal sun shines – however dimly.

If I miss the stocks and shares ISA deadline, can I carry unused allowance to the next tax year?

Sadly not. As soon as the date ticks over from 5 April to 6 April, your annual ISA allowance resets, and you will lose any unused allowance from the last (or previous) years.

However, it’s worth mentioning at this point that you aren’t stuck leaving your money from last year with a stocks and shares ISA provider that you’re no longer happy with. While you can’t pay more than £20,000 of “new” money into an ISA in a given tax year, you are free to transfer money in existing accounts from one provider to another.

Can I pay into an ISA part-way through the tax year?

Absolutely. The only time-based restriction on making use of your annual ISA allowance is that you have to do so within a tax year. You’re not obliged to hustle to get ISAs opened and your allowance paid in within days of the new tax year starting.

As a general rule, it’s better to get money you have available working for you as soon as you can. But if, like many people, you don’t have a cool £20,000 just waiting in the bank to be invested on 6 April, it’s absolutely fine to drip feed money into a stocks and shares ISA throughout the tax year, as and when you can spare it.

When is a good time to start a stocks and shares ISA?

Zoe Stabler

Finder expert Zoe Stabler answers

Some will argue that the best time to start a stocks and shares ISA is always now. And there’s a compelling case for making the move into investments, provided you have enough in cash for a “rainy day”. That’s because, in the long run, investing tends to result in higher returns than cash savings.

Caveat emptor: this isn’t a guarantee, and the value of investments can go down as well as up. But, as a general rule, a well-diversified stocks and shares investment portfolio could net you more than putting the same amount into a cash ISA, for example.

It’s not about choosing a specific date to start – trying to predict the market and pick the perfect time to buy is a job even professionals struggle with. If you’re considering starting a stocks and shares ISA, the key point in the argument above is the phrase “in the long run”.

Ask yourself: Can I afford to lock my money away for at least 5 years? That’s the minimum time recommended by experts to allow investments to ride out any short-term market volatility. If the answer to that is no – because you might need it to repay a debt or shell out for a big expense, or in case something unexpected happens that leaves you short of income for a while – then now is probably not the right time to plough large amounts of money into any sort of investment, including stocks and shares ISAs.

That said, many investment platforms let you start investing from as little as a few quid. So, if you want, there’s nothing stopping you opening a stocks and shares ISA, starting small and increasing your contributions as and when your circumstances allow it.

What happens if I reach my ISA limit before the ISA deadline?

Good for you! That means you’ve maximised your tax-free ISA allowance in plenty of time.

But this does also mean that you’ll have to wait until the next tax year until you can pay any more into an ISA – of any kind. Remember that the £20,000 limit applies across all types of ISA, including cash, stocks and shares, innovative finance and lifetime ISAs.

That’s the case even if the value of any stocks and shares ISA falls below the amount that you’ve paid in. The allowance is how much you can pay in, not the total value of your holdings.

Bottom line

Even if you can’t afford to save much into a stocks and shares ISA in a given tax year, it’s worth paying attention to the ISA deadline of 5 April. Paying in unused allowance just before the deadline rather than waiting until after will avoid using up any of the next year’s allowance unnecessarily. After all, who knows what the future holds for your finances?

Finder survey: Do you currently have any form of ISA?

Source: Finder survey by Censuswide of 1032 Brits, December 2023

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