If you use ISAs wisely, you can put away up to £15,000 without having to pay a penny of tax on the interest you earn*
*Tax advantages may be subject to change and will depend on your individual circumstances.
You can invest your full ISA allowance of £15,000 in a stocks and shares ISA. Stocks and shares ISAs come in two forms:
You can put up to £15,000 in a cash ISA and shield your returns from tax.
A Cash ISA (Individual Savings Account) is special type of savings account where you don’t pay tax on the interest you earn.
Individual Savings Accounts were introduced by the government in 1999 to encourage people to save. The government decides how much you are able to invest in an ISA each tax year.
In the 2014-15 tax year, for example, the limit is £11,880 per person. The ISA limit is expected to be raised in line with inflation each year from next year onwards.
Each UK taxpayer’s overall ISA limit can split between Cash ISAs and Stocks and Shares ISAs. For the 2014 – 15 tax year, the overall limit is £11,880 and so if you invested £8,000 in a Stocks and Shares ISA you would only be able to invest the remaining £3,880 in a Cash ISA.
Cash ISAs typically give you a better return on your savings than a non-ISA account because of their special tax-free status. A basic-rate (20%) taxpayer would have to find a non-ISA account paying 3.75% to get the same return after tax as a Cash ISA paying 3%.
At the higher tax rate of 40%, you’d have to find a non-ISA account paying 5% to match the Cash ISA, and those in the 45% tax band would only be able to match the returns of a 3% Cash ISA with a 6% non-ISA account.
According to Moneysupermarket.com research, if a higher-rate taxpayer had invested their entire Cash ISA allowance each year since ISAs were introduced, and moved their money to the highest-paying account each year, they would be almost £6,000 better off than if they’d used a standard savings account. In the 20% tax bracket, a saver would have been £3,000 better off.
Another great thing is that on top of the yearly limit, you can also transfer money invested in previous years.
As long as your ISA is easy access, you’ll be able to withdraw your money. However, if you used 90% of your Cash ISA allowance and later withdrew £2,000 within that tax year – you’d still only be allowed to invest the remaining 10% of your allowance.
If you pay income tax then a Cash ISA is likely to be the best investment option for you, but you should always check what other accounts are available to see if there is anything to better suit you.
Remember that Cash ISAs are capped each year, so if you’re looking to invest more than the limit you might want to look at other options.
Each account will come with its own terms and conditions too, placing restrictions on transfers, deposits and withdrawals. For example, not every account will allow you to make transfers into it, and the accounts offering the highest returns are typically only going to be available for that year’s allowance.
If you’re planning on switching ISA accounts, you should be aware that when you withdraw the cash it loses its tax-free status, and so you should speak to your provider about arranging the transfer instead, or face losing your tax advantage.
If you are looking to invest money in both a Cash ISA and a Stocks and Shares ISA, you should know that while you can move cash from your Cash ISA to a Stocks and Shares ISA, you cannot move money in the opposite direction, from Stocks and Shares to Cash ISAs.
†Saving based on interest paid on the market leading product vs. average rate on offer in the UK; and based upon using the full 2011-2012 Cash ISA allowance of £5,340.