Why have an ISA?
An ISA is an ‘individual savings account’. You can open one if you’re over 16 (18 for some products, including stocks and shares ISAs) and live in the UK. Any interest you earn on money you put in an ISA is tax-free, so it’s a worthwhile investment to make.
If you’re eligible to open an ISA, there’s a limit to how much money you can put in. This limit changes every financial year; for 2017/2018 the limit is £20,000. You can have more than one ISA, but you can’t go over your allowance in any one financial year.
Standard savings accounts, on the other hand, are liable to tax. If you’re a lower-rate taxpayer, you can earn up to £1,000 interest tax free; any interest you earn after that is subject to tax. For higher-rate taxpayers, the allowance is £500. If you earn £17,000 or less each year, you won’t pay any tax on your savings interest at all.
A range of ISAs are available. Cash ISAs are like savings accounts, where you deposit cash and earn interest on what you put in. A stocks and shares ISA, on the other hand, tracks a range of stock market businesses and your return is based on how they perform. Junior and help-to-buy ISAs are also available.