Guide to ISAs

ISAs (Individual Savings Accounts) are one of the most popular ways to save and invest.

They’re easy to understand, flexible, and you don’t have to pay UK tax on your savings or investments.

There are many ways that you can save or invest, and while we all want our money to grow, it’s important to think about the level of risk you might be willing to take with your money. It is all about achieving a balance.

You could decide to save a manageable amount each month from your take home pay to cover your living costs, larger expenses and the unexpected.

A bank or building society account may be a good home for your money, or you could open an ISA...but what are they, how do they work?

What is a Cash ISA?

A Cash ISA is a savings account that allows you to make regular contributions. Unlike a standard savings account, you won't pay any tax on the interest earned within your Cash ISA.

The other main difference between a Cash ISA and a standard savings account is that there is a maximum amount you can pay each tax year into a Cash ISA. 

Find out more information about current ISA limits.

How does Stock and Shares ISAs work?

A stocks and Shares ISA is different from a Cash ISA becuase it gives you the chance to invest. You can invest in:

• Shares in companies.
• Unit trusts and Open-ended Investment Company funds (OEICs). See our guide to OEICs for more.
• Corporate bonds.
• Government bonds.

A fund is when investors pool their money together to buy a range of assets such as bonds, shares and property. If you have a Stocks and Shares ISA, you can usually select different funds to invest in, plus move your money between these without taking it out of your ISA and losing the tax advantages. It's worthwhile checking with your ISA provider to understand if there are any charges for moving your money between funds.

Please note that the value of an investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the amount you put in.

How much can I invest in an ISA?

Each tax year you can put money into one of each kind of ISA. You can currently save up to £20,000 in one type of account or split the allowance across two types.

For example:

You could save £12,000 in a Cash ISA and £8,000 in a Stocks and Shares ISA in one tax year.

The above is just an example. You can choose how much to pay in as long as you don't exceed the maximum ISA allowance for the current tax year.

Finally, you can also start an ISA with a single lump sum and not contribute anything else. Alternatively, you can begin with the single lump sum and at the same time start a regular monthly investment. The choice is yours.

Because tax rules can change, the impact of taxation (and any tax relief) depends on your individual circumstances. 

Further information on ISAs can be found on gov.uk

Still unsure what's right for you?

Whether you are completely new to investing or you have done some research – help is at hand. A financial adviser will look at your needs, discuss the level of risk you are comfortable taking and balance that with the level of rewards you are aiming for. They'll also talk to you about other types of ISAs that may be available to you. Then they will recommend the options that are right for you.

After all it is their job to be the expert – not yours.