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20 years after the ISA was launched, what does the future hold?

A study by the Yorkshire Building Society found that savers deposited £4.3bn into ISAs in the final week of the 2017/18 tax year, and the tax year just gone (2018/19) was set to see a similar final week deposit of up to £4bn. This was despite the number of ISA holders falling from 11.1m in 2016/17 to 10.8m in 2017/18.

ISAs, therefore, are continuing to be attractive.

They were launched two decades ago as a tax-free alternative to traditional savings accounts which failed to offer an interest rate that competed with the rate of inflation. At its advent, the total tax-free allowance was £7,000, but at least £4,000 had to be invested in funds, meaning the maximum you could save in a cash ISA was £3,000. Since then, the ISA portfolio has grown to include Help to Buy ISAs, Innovative ISAs and Lifetime ISAs. In addition to this, the tax-free saving allowance has increased, and today, savers are allowed to deposit up to £20,000 into their ISAs each tax year, tax-free.

That means no interest tax, no income tax and no capital gains tax. Cash ISAs also offer access to funds as easily as regular savings accounts and are an excellent choice when it comes to choosing a default savings account.

Take-up appears to be declining amongst younger generations, though, as the total number of adults saving into an ISA fell from 11.1m in 2016/17 to 10.8m last year. With so many opportunities available to young people these days, perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising that saving into an ISA is losing its appeal?

How can ISAs evolve to maintain appeal?

Clues may lie within the rise of Open Banking, as digital money apps have empowered many people to manage their money more actively.

These apps play a huge role, although it could be suggested that financial education should begin at a very young age. Encouraging young people to invest for the long term requires knowledge of the difference between investment and saving.

Einstein famously said that: “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple,” and it would be unwise to underestimate the importance of simplifying language. The financial sector is awash with acronyms and savings jargon, creating potentially confusing barriers to entry for savers.

Some financial advisers have called for a more holistic approach and to examine how other industries are driving long-term behaviour change. Think of how the music industry changed the way we purchase and listen to music with digital distribution and online streaming platforms such as Spotify.

Ross Duncton, head of Direct at BMO Global Asset Management, says that a ‘revolution is due for the savings and investment industry – with ISAs centre stage.’ After all, if savings options were to remain the same for the next twenty years, the steady decline of ISA uptake will only continue.

Sources
What Investment – Issue 434 May 2019
https://moneyfacts.co.uk/news/savings/billions-of-isa-savings-expected/

What to know about ISAs in 2019/2020

The rules around ISAs (or individual savings accounts) change relatively often and different types of ISA rise and fall in popularity depending on where savers consider the most competitive place to put their hard earned money.

ISAs are a great way to save because of their tax efficiency. You don’t pay income tax or capital gains tax on the returns and you can withdraw the amount any time as a tax free lump sum. Because of their tax efficiency, there are set limits on how much you can save using ISA accounts.

The 2019-20 tax year is an interesting year for ISAs because the main annual allowance isn’t increasing. The yearly total you can invest in an ISA remains at £20,000. This means that the ISA limit remains unchanged since April 2017.

Remember that all ISAs don’t have the same allowance. For Help to Buy ISAs, you can only save a maximum of £200 a month, on top of an initial deposit of £1,200. Lifetime ISAs (LISAs) have a maximum yearly allowance of £4,000, on top of which you benefit from a government top-up of 25% of your contributions.

One ISA allowance that is rising (slightly!) is the Junior ISA, increasing from £4,260 to £4,368. This means that relatives can contribute slightly more to a child’s future, in a savings account that can only be accessed when they reach 18. Junior ISA accounts are rapidly gaining in popularity, with around 907,000 such accounts subscribed to in the tax year 2017/2018. Great news for the youngest generation!

Stocks and Shares ISAs are also gaining more popularity, with an increase of nearly 250,000 in the last tax year. On the whole, though, the number of Adult ISA accounts subscribed to in the last year fell from 11.1 million in 2016/17 to 10.8 million in 2017/18.

For investors with Stocks and Shares ISAs, Brexit uncertainty has understandably created cause for concern. In this scenario, your best course of action is to make sure that your investments are properly diversified around the globe. Speak to us if you are unsure about what you can do to reduce risk during any post-Brexit turbulence. We’ll be more than happy to help.

Sources
https://blog.moneyfarm.com/en/isas/annual-2019-isa-allowance

one in seven widows are missing out on valuable tax breaks

New data reveals that thousands of widows are missing out on valuable tax breaks on money inherited from their late husbands or wives.

In 2015, the government introduced a new rule that allows spouses to claim an extra ISA allowance. This allowance, known as an Additional Permitted Subscription allowance (APS allowance), is available to the surviving spouse or civil partner of a deceased ISA investor, where the investor died on or after 3 December 2014.

According to the Tax Incentivised Savings Association (an ISA trade body), around 150,000 married ISA savers die each year. However, just 21,000 eligible spouses used their APS allowance in the 2017-18 tax year, meaning they may be paying more tax than they need to pay.

Many bereaved spouses are unaware of the extra protections they can claim on, while others find the process difficult and confusing.

It is thought that many of those who lose out are widows whose husbands pass away without informing them of the exact nature of their financial affairs. In some cases, widows only discover large sums of money long after their husband’s death.

Situations like this have led to many to call for greater transparency between spouses around their financial affairs. A culture of privacy around financial matters is rife among the ‘baby boomer’ generation, where the higher earner often manages the money and investments. This can leave the bereaved in a precarious position, especially if they don’t know what bank accounts, investments and companies their spouse may have managed.

If your partner has left funds held in an ISA to someone else, you’re still entitled to APS. For instance, if your partner left an ISA of £45,000 to their friends and family, you can use your APS allowance to put an extra £45,000 into an ISA of your own.

Think you might be able to claim? You can apply through your late partner’s ISA provider. You will need to fill in a form, similar to when you open an ISA.

Sources
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/personal-banking/savings/one-seven-widows-missing-valuable-tax-breaks/

how to pass on ISAs after you’re gone

ISAs have long been regarded as a simple and effective way of protecting your savings from the taxman, with the increased limit now allowing you to shelter up to £20,000 of your savings a year from being taxed. Whilst this can be a great help in protecting your nest egg during your own life, you’ll also want to know that your hard-earned savings will be safe after the event of your death so that as much of the money you’ve accumulated as possible can go to those you leave behind.

Thankfully, in the case of a spouse, this need not be a worry. The government introduced legislation in 2015 which means that surviving husbands, wives or civil partners can inherit an ISA from their other half with the tax-free wrapper remaining intact. The ISA will also not be subject to inheritance tax (IHT) if it’s being passed on to your spouse.

However, if you’re leaving an ISA to another family member, such as a child, the amount held in the account is still considered to be part of your estate. It could therefore be a contributing factor in pushing your assets over the amount that can be left to someone else without incurring tax, known as the ‘nil rate band’. As IHT is payable at a rate of 40%, this could put a serious dent in the amount your loved ones will actually receive after you’re gone.

If your savings are likely to push your estate above the nil rate band, there are options available to reduce the amount taken by the taxman. It’s now easier to safeguard your pension from IHT, no matter who you’re planning to leave it to. Those hoping to leave their money to someone other than a spouse or partner might consider keeping their money in a pension and live off their ISA income as far as possible, thereby being able to pass on their pension pot to a loved one without incurring tax upon it. It’s important to remember that not all pensions are set up to allow this, so it’s normally a good idea to seek professional advice about the best way to protect your estate from being taxed before making any plans for your savings.

Sources
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/special-reports/can-i-transfer-an-isa-on-death-without-penalty/
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/financial-services/investments/inheritance-tax/isa-tax-rules/
http://www.which.co.uk/money/savings-and-isas/isas/guides/cash-isas/can-you-inherit-an-isa

which is best? save or invest

Whilst you might expect an increase in the cash and investment ISA limit to be welcomed, at least one dissenting voice has come from Steve Webb, former Pensions Minister and current policy director at Royal London. Webb has warned that the rise in April from the current annual limit of £15,240 up to £20,000 could encourage poor long-term investment choices.

The criticism is aimed at the cash element in particular. Webb has described cash ISAs as useful as a ‘rainy day fund’ but unsuitable as a way to help invested money grow. As such, he’s advised that a more appropriate investment limit for cash ISAs would be £5,000, just a quarter of the proposed new limit.

A report from Royal London backs up this view. Whilst cash ISAs continue to grow in popularity, the returns they offer often pale in comparison to many investment opportunities. Had all the money put into cash ISAs over the past decade been invested instead, the report estimates that savers would now collectively have £360 billion, significantly more than the actual figure of £250 billion. Inflation has also taken its toll on the value offered, with £26 billion worth of savings wiped out in the same period, thanks to cash ISAs failing to keep pace with inflation rates.

Most of us manage our finances in numbers a lot smaller than billions, however, so what does all of this mean? The latest figures show that £1,000 paid into a cash ISA a decade ago would be worth under £900 in today’s money. In contrast, had that money been invested in a typical multi-asset fund where money is spread across property, bonds and shares, it would be worth over £1,500 today.

Whilst this suggests that those looking to grow their money should opt for investments, it doesn’t take into account the safety of cash in the short term and the convenience of having money readily available in an ISA. The most important factor in making decisions around your finances is to think proactively.

Think about your individual circumstances before you opt to tie your money up in an investment but, equally, don’t simply place it all in a cash ISA if you can afford not to touch your savings and allow them to grow. 

Sources
http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/saving/article-4176724/Cash-Isa-limit-cut-argues-Steve-Webb.html

Help To Buy vs Lifetime: Which ISA is best?

 

Set to be introduced in April 2017, the Lifetime ISA essentially offers an alternative to the Help To Buy ISA. With two competing options on the table, it’s important to know which is best for you and your needs, as whilst they have some similarities, there are also key differences between the two.

The Help To Buy ISA allows you to save up to £200 each month to save for a deposit on your first home. The government then boosts your savings further to the tune of 25% up to a total limit of £3,000, as long as you’re a first time buyer purchasing a property priced up to £450,000 in London and up to £250,000 everywhere else in the UK. There is no minimum deposit each month, and you’re also able to pay in £1,000 when the account is opened that doesn’t count towards your monthly savings.

Available up to Autumn 2019, anyone aged sixteen or over is entitled to open a Help To Buy ISA. The accounts are limited to one per person, which means both people in a couple can have an account and benefit from the bonus.

The new Lifetime ISA is based on similar principles but has several important differences, with the most important being that it can be used either to save for purchasing your first home or as money put away as a pension for later in life. There’s no limit on how much you can save each month as long as you don’t go over the yearly cap of £4,000.

Again, the government offers a 25% bonus, but this is paid whether you use the money to purchase your first home up to a price of £450,000 anywhere in the country, or keep it for later in your life. Any money that’s taken out before your 60th birthday and not used for purchasing your first home will forfeit the government bonus plus any growth or interest earned from it, as well as incurring a 5% charge. If you wait until after you’re 60, you can take out everything tax-free.

As you will be allowed to have both a Lifetime ISA and a Help To Buy ISA, you can choose to do this, but you will only be able to use the bonus from one of the two accounts to buy a home. As the Lifetime ISA is essentially replacing the Help To Buy ISA, it makes sense to opt for the newer style of account after they are introduced next April. If you want to set up an ISA for your child, however, you could consider opening a Help To Buy ISA on their 16th birthday then transferring the savings to a Lifetime ISA two years later which will allow you to take full advantage of the government bonuses

As always, seeking professional advice to establish what is right for you and your objectives has to be paramount.  This article is intended to give information only and not advice.

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Sources: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/508117/Lifetime_ISA_explained.pdf, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/414027/FTB_factographic_final.pdf

60 is the new 40!

Good news for all of us who have accepted that we are getting older: Saga reports that new European research shows that 60 is the new 40! The research reveals that people are now reaching middle age at the tender age of 60, instead of the previously expected figure of 40 years old.

Saga’s Head of Communications, Lisa Harris, commented:

“Middle age is most certainly a state of mind. In today’s society we are living longer, healthier lives and the face of later life is changing beyond all recognition. Retirement is no longer a cliff edge decision where we stop working purely because we’ve celebrated a birthday. Instead we change the way we work – often with the goal of achieving a more rewarding work life balance that allows us to feel both valued in the workforce for the skills and experience we have to offer and also gives us the opportunity to travel, take part in hobbies, volunteer and generally have a bit of fun too. It’s not just about living longer – it’s about ageing well!”

One is tempted to ask, what now happens at 40 then? If no longer the threshold of ‘middle-age’, what significance does passing one’s birthday at 40 now have? It used to be an important marker of ageing – passing into middle-age with a feeling of old age creeping up on us, just around the corner. It used to feel like the beginning of the end – time to stop playing sport, stop thinking we are young and let ‘middle-age spread’ take over. Perhaps today’s perception of our life at 40, and for those that will follow us into this new idea of age, will now be marked by similar previously unrecognisable thoughts. Will 40 become the age we finally manage to buy our first house, or see us looking sceptically forward at another thirty years of employment, before we can afford to retire?

To balance this, at 60 we are now constantly reminded to develop a healthy lifestyle and exercise to keep fit – we have a new lifetime ahead of us – time to start playing sport again. So old-age is off the agenda, until we are at least 85, when we might have to finally consider giving up running marathons!


Sources: www.saga.co.uk (Published article: 2015/04 16)

 

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ISA ? …NISA ? …. Change is here …. Welcome to the new rules

In March this year the Chancellor announced a series of changes to the way in which people can save. As of today you can now put up to £15,000 into your individual savings account (ISA). In addition to this increase from £11,880, the government also added some flexibility to the way in which your ISA allowance can be used.

Previously only half your allowance could be saved in cash, whereas now you can put your entire allowance in cash. Another added benefit is that you can now switch between cash and stocks and shares whenever you like!

It’s not just about adult ISA’s – Junior ISA allowance increases from £3,840 to £4,000 !

 

ISA Rules 2014 2015

Some things about ISA’s you may not know ….

  • Only 26% of individuals earning between £100k – £150k maxed out their ISAs
  • 2012/13 subscriptions Cash £40 billion, Stocks ‘n’ Shares £16billion
  • £443 billion was held in ISAs (as at April 2013) split 50:50 cash/stocks ‘n’ shares

Source – A National Statistics publication

 

 

‘Changing lives one client at a time’

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ISA Questions Answered …

One of our suggested Financial New Year’s Resolutions for everyone this year is to pay less tax and one possible solution is to make sure that you are paying into an ISA and, if possible, using up your yearly ISA allocation.

These tax efficient savings vehicles have been around since April 1999 and are a great way to save and invest but many clients still have queries about them. We’ve put together the following answers to common questions, to help you understand ISAs better in the run up to end of the financial year, when your chance to use your 2013/2014’s allocation ends.

1. Exactly what is an ISA?

An ISA is a ‘wrapper’ that’s designed to go round an investment, making it more tax efficient. There are two types of ISA; Cash ISAs and Stocks and Shares ISAs. Cash is like a normal deposit account, except that you pay no tax on the interest you earn. Stock and Shares ISAs allow you to invest in equities, bonds or commercial property without paying personal tax on your returns.

2. How much can I contribute?

For the tax year ending 5th April 2014, the maximum level is £11,520 per individual (so a husband and wife could contribute £23,040). The maximum that can be contributed to a Cash ISA is £5,760. But there is no limit on the Stocks and Shares ISA, so if you only contribute, say, £3,000 to your Cash ISA, then you could contribute up to £8,520 to your Stocks and Shares ISA.

3. What are the crucial dates?

The ISA limits apply to a tax year – so the current allowance applies to the tax year running from 6th April 2013 to 5th April 2014. The next tax year starts on 6th April 2014 and the overall ISA limit for that year will rise to £11,880. It’s important to note that your ISA allowance cannot be carried forward from one tax year to the next.

4. Can children have an ISA?

Children aged 15 or under cannot have a Cash ISA, though there are other ways for them to save depending on when they were born. They become eligible for Cash ISAs at the age of 16 and 17, when they can have a Cash ISA, with the same limits as an adult.

5. Are the returns guaranteed?

Some ISA providers guarantee their interest rates on Cash ISAs but the return on a Stocks and Shares ISA cannot be guaranteed, and you could get back less than you invested. As with all forms of investment it makes sense to take advice from an independent financial adviser, and Stocks and Shares ISAs should be seen as a medium to long term investment.

6. I’ve heard people say ISAs are better than pensions: is that right?

No, not necessarily. ISAs and pensions are entirely separate and both can, and most likely should, play a part in your financial planning. The best idea is to talk to us about your long term financial goals, and we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both ISAs and pensions and help you decide on what’s best for you.

7. My ISA was with XYZ Building Society last year. Do I have to stay with them this year?

No, absolutely not. You can have a different ISA provider every year if you so choose. For Cash ISAs, it obviously makes sense to choose the provider who’ll give you the best rate of return, and for a Stocks and Shares ISA, you’ll naturally want to consider the past performance of the provider (although it’s no guarantee of the future returns) and the range of funds offered.

8. I have ISAs with several different providers. Can I consolidate them?

Yes, you can – and you won’t lose the tax ‘wrapper.’ Many previously attractive savings accounts cease to have a good rate of interest and naturally some Stocks and Shares ISAs don’t perform as well as investors would have hoped. Consolidating your ISAs may also substantially reduce your paperwork. We’ll be happy to talk you through the advantages and disadvantages of doing it.

9. Can I save regularly in an ISA? I prefer saving on a monthly basis.

‘Yes’ is the simple answer to that question. We’ll happily advise on which providers accept monthly savings.

10. Someone mentioned ‘re-registering’ an ISA. What does that mean?

Some clients are now choosing to keep track of their investments via what’s known as a ‘wrap.’ Essentially this means that investments with different companies and/or investment groups are brought together under an overall ‘wrap’ for ease of administration. If an ISA is included in this type of arrangement it will need re-registering to the wrap provider. The underlying investment doesn’t change.

If you’d like any further details or advice on your current or planned ISA investments or you have any other questions, then as always, don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

The value of investments and the income from them can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you originally invested.


Sources: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/

 

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An ISA millionaire shows the real power of tax free saving

Lord Lee, hailed as Britain’s first ISA millionaire, tells a compelling tale about how a sensible approach to investment, which includes the prevalent use of the tax free accounts, can pay huge dividends.

Writing in The Telegraph, Lord Lee describes how, after 16 years of investing a total of £126,000 into ISAs, his pot had grown to a hugely impressive £1 million.

Of course, not everyone who invests in ISAs will reach the level of return achieved by Lord Lee, but as we approach the April deadline for using your 2013/2014 annual ISA allowance, his examples proves a potent reminder of just how valuable ISAs can be to your investment portfolio.

Using mainly Stocks and Shares ISAs, Lee preaches patience to ISA investors and revealed that his own biggest investing flaw was a lack of it. Certainly Lee now seems to have little reason to worry, but with one holding sold early for between £4.88 and £11 now worth north of £20, the investor still clearly has some regrets.

For any investors who are not currently following Lord Lee’s example, April 5th is a key date. The end of the current tax year marks your last chance to invest up to the government imposed maximum ISA limit. This year the limit has been set at £11,520, with no more than £5,760 able to be held in a Cash ISA.

Lee ends his article by hailing British business and by saying that we, as a nation, should be encouraging responsible savings and investments. Certainly, using your ISA allowance is one very sensible way of starting to do just that.

Sources: http://www.telegraph.co.uk

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