Self-select ISAs explained
Want to pick your own shares for your tax-free investment? A self-select ISA could be right for you
What is a self-select ISA?
A self-select individual savings account (ISA) is a way to invest in equity funds and individual stocks and shares - and shelter the returns from tax. As the name suggests, you pick which shares to hold in your ISA, rather than having an investment company or provider or fund manager make the decisions for you.
How do self-select ISAs work?
Self-select ISAs, like their cash ISA counterparts, are free of income tax and capital gains tax. The maximum you can hold in a self-select ISA or any stocks and shares ISA this tax year (2022/23) is £20,000.
Note that your annual ISA allowance is £20,000 but you can split this across different types of ISA - so you could have £12,000 in a cash ISA, for example, and £8,000 in a self-select equity ISA.
To invest in a self-select ISA, you can open an account through a provider offering self-select ISAs. Once you open your account, you can then choose the investment funds you want. You are completely in control of what you invest in and the investments in your self-select ISA grow free of any tax.
What are the tax advantages of having a self-investment ISA?
The tax advantages of ISAs have reduced in recent years due to tax regime changes in the UK.
For example, everyone has a £2,000 annual dividend tax allowance, which means they can earn this much in dividend income without having to pay tax. Only those on higher rates of tax who earn more than £2,000 of dividend income in a year will therefore enjoy additional income tax benefits from holding shares in an ISA.
The annual allowance for capital gains tax – CGT - is £12,300 (2022/23 tax year). This is the amount of profit you could make from the sale of shares in a year without paying tax, even if those shares were held outside an ISA.
What type of self-select ISAs are available?
When you choose to use a self-select ISA, you must also choose whether you need a broker or ISA provider that offers advice or one that doesn’t, known as an execution-only broker.
Execution-only brokers often have the lowest fees as they simply provide the internet trading platform you’ll need to trade shares and other investments. However, broker firms that offer advice charge more because they will help you decide which funds and company shares to pick – using their knowledge of the markets.
What can I invest in with a self-select ISA?
Open-ended investment companies
Gilts (government bonds)
Exchange-traded funds (EFTs)
What are the advantages and disadvantages of self-select ISAs?
There are a number of pros and cons to consider when thinking about a self-select ISA. Here are some of the main things to think about:
You’re in control. Being in charge of the investments you hold within your ISA, gives you more control in comparison to handing the reins over to a fund manager
Tax benefits: As investment growth and dividends received within the ISA are free of capital gains and additional income tax, this can be particularly advantageous for higher-rate taxpayers and those with large share portfolios
Freedom: You can change your investments within your ISA if you want to, subject to the £20,000 annual investment limit
Protection: Stocks and shares ISAs are eligible for the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) for up to £85,000 per person, per institution. Customers of investment firms that went bust before April 2019 are covered by the FSCS by up to £50,000 per person, per institution
High risk: Self-select ISAs can be higher risk than other types of ISAs and the value of your investment can fall. There is no guarantee that you will make money. You could end up with less money than you put in. In contrast there is no risk to capital with a cash ISA
More involvement: With a self-select ISAs you are more involved in your investment. But that means you will need to keep an eye on how your investments are performing. If you don’t have the time to do this, a self-select ISA may not be best for you
Should I choose a self-select ISA?
A self-select ISA puts you in control of what you invest in so it can have an appeal to more experienced or confident investors. They can also offer good tax benefits – particularly for higher rate taxpayers.
Other useful guides
We have a range of detailed guides with information for savers and investors. Find out more:
Compare stocks and shares ISAs with MoneySuperMarket
MoneySuperMarket doesn’t offer a comparison service for self-select ISAs but we have a broad range of guides and information to help you with your ISA decisions. You can also compare stocks and shares ISAs within our investments hub.
Can I pick my own stocks in an ISA?
Yes, if you opt for a self-select ISA you can choose which investment funds, unit trusts and stocks and shares you invest in.
Can you hold shares in an ISA?
Yes, you can hold individual company shares in a stocks and shares ISA and in a self-select ISA.
How many self-select ISAs can I have open?
A self-select ISA is a type of stocks and shares ISA. You can only open one in any tax year
How much money can I put into a self-select ISA?
You can put up to £20,000 in a self-select ISA in any tax year. This is the total annual ISA allowance.