Looking to plan your financial future but unsure of the best way to do it? An Individual Savings Account (ISA) could be the answer. ISAs are tax-free savings accounts that offer many advantages and can be a great tool for reaching your long-term financial goals. In this blog post, we'll explore what an ISA is, what types of ISAs exist and their benefits, and how you can use them in order to reach your ultimate goals. So if you're looking for advice on smart long-term investing or reducing taxes over multiple years, keep reading!
What is an ISA (Individual Savings Account)?
Firstly, what is it? An Individual Savings Account (ISA) is a financial account available to residents of the United Kingdom (UK) that allows them to save or invest money in a tax-efficient manner. It is a type of savings or investment account that offers certain tax advantages compared to other forms of saving.
The primary benefit of an ISA is that any income or capital gains earned within the account are exempt from income tax and capital gains tax. This means that the interest earned on savings or the returns generated from investments held within an ISA are not subject to these taxes. Think of it like a protective wrapper, that can be wrapped around your investments to protect them from being taxed
Different types of ISA
a. Cash ISA
This type of ISA allows individuals to save money in cash deposits, such as savings accounts or cash-based investments. The interest earned within a cash ISA is tax-free.
b. Stocks and Shares ISA
This type of ISA allows individuals to invest in a range of investment products, such as stocks, bonds, investment funds, and other financial instruments. Any income or capital gains generated from these investments are tax-free.
c. Lifetime ISA
This type of ISA is specifically designed for long-term savings towards either purchasing a first home or saving for retirement. Individuals can save up to a certain annual limit, and the government provides a 25% bonus on contributions, up to a certain limit.
d. Innovative Finance ISA
This type of ISA allows individuals to invest in peer-to-peer lending platforms or other alternative finance options. The interest earned from these investments is tax-free.
How Much Can You Put in an ISA?
Each tax year, which runs from April 6 to April 5 of the following year, individuals have an annual allowance, known as the ISA allowance, which sets the maximum amount that can be deposited into an ISA for that year. The ISA allowance may vary from year to year and is subject to government regulations. This is set at £20,000. It is important to note that unused allowance does not carry over to following years. If you don't use it, you lose it.
You are also not bound to use one kind of ISA - for most ISA products, you can split your allowance, and you can also hold multiple ISAs with different providers, as long as you stick to the mandated annual allowance.
The Pros and Cons of Investing in an ISA
It's mostly pros! The government have created the ISA to allow consumers to invest in a tax efficient manner, up to a certain limit, and encourage responsible, long term investing. As interest in your ISA account compounds, whatever it's invested in, the gain gets exponentially larger in relation to the principal, or the amount you put in. This means that the longer you leave your assets to grow in an ISA, the more benefit you'll get. Allowing them to grow without the interruption of stopping to pay capital gains taxes along the way is a huge benefit, and it's important to understand how powerful this can be.
How to Get Started with an ISA
It's simple! When opening an investment or savings account with any provider, you'll be given the option to open it as an ISA. The good ones will track your allowance and let you know how much remains, or remind you to top up your account before the allowance is wiped at the end of the tax year. For that reason, the best ISA products are usually the same as the best savings accounts or investment brokerages, so find the one you like (or use our recommendation!
It's important to note that ISAs are specific to the UK and are not available in other countries. They are designed to encourage saving and investing by providing tax advantages to individuals. Managing your ISA is one of the most important parts of opening one, and making sure that what's in it falls in line with the wider goals of your savings and investments. For that reason, it's vitally important to either create a log of everything you have, or use a portfolio tracker.