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The past year saw interest rates ascend from the murky depths of near-zero. What began as a gentle wobble expanded like some giant emission from the sub-aquatic crust below calm seas to – ahem – belch violently at the surface, causing shockwaves in all directions.

Hmm, my co-blogger The Accumulator makes these metaphors look so easy. Anyway you get my point.

Early last year I warned this regime change could derail early retirement plans by whacking equities and bonds. Mortgage rates would rise, too. Although on a brighter note cash savings would pay more. Albeit not, as things have turned out, by anything like enough to match inflation.

In the UK we eventually even got a government-induced Mini Financial Crisis, when a spike in bond yields threatened to blow-up the pension system and imperil the banks again.

And to my surprise, this shift is still not over. 18 months ago I’d expected inflation to have eased a lot by now. The longer high inflation lasts, the more likely it gets embedded via higher wages.

Policymakers are similarly bemused, if not panicked. They first talked of “transient” inflation. Then they unleashed a rapid succession of hikes. Then they arguably lowered their guard – only to see inflation fears now pick up again.

Bonds and equities have fallen recently as more and longer-lasting US rate rises are back in sight:

Rate expectations

What we are seeing here is the messy sausage-making behind the ugly word ‘normalization’.

We’ve gone back to a world where money is no longer almost free.

As much discussed, the inverted yield curve that has resulted from the rate hikes that got us here seems to predict a recession is coming. (Though the academic behind this signal has doubts).

Most pundits expect a mild slowdown. But I suppose a very deep recession could hammer the outlook for inflation and hence rates. Maybe we can’t entirely dismiss a return to near-zero interest rates – especially if the vast amount of borrowing out there limits how long high rates can endure.

However it looks much likelier to me that we’ve seen the last of policy rates of 0-2% from central banks for a while. That we’re back in a 3-6% market interest rate world.

That has consequences for financial products and services, and for government borrowing and business strategies, too.

Higher borrowing costs will surely inflict a correction on frothy residential property markets. Higher costs will also change how businesses raise money and where and why they invest. Zombie outfits propped up by low rates could finally go bust. There will be other winners and losers.

Banks for instance should do better in a higher rate environment, all things considered. They’ve become masters at finding other ways to make money rather than simply sweating their ‘net interest margin’, which was crushed in the near-zero era. But the alchemy of lending at higher rates and paying savers less is more forgiving at today’s levels. So traditional banking should do markedly better from here. (Barring a true housing crash…)

Elsewhere, any company sitting on a lot of cash will finally have the wind at its back – whereas such prudence was a drag on returns for over a decade.

But these won’t just be conservative companies with strong balance sheets.

We can also expect firms that take a lot of customer cash upfront – and then sit on it for a while – to report higher income from interest earned, too.

Many companies are in this position. It all depends on exactly when they pay their suppliers for whatever they sell their customers. A big delay creates a cash ‘float’ that can generate an income.

Cash in an investment account

However the most interesting winners from the return to higher rates from a Monevator perspective are the investment platforms and brokers.

Stephen Yiu – who manages the sometime market-beating Blue Whale Growth Fund – reminded me of this in a recent interview with the Investor’s Chronicle.

Yiu mentions his fund invested in US broker Charles Schwab explicitly on expectations of higher interest rates. That’s because Schwab earns interest on cash left idle in its customer accounts.

When risk-free rates were very low, this ability was redundant.

But with short-term US rates nearing 5% and Schwab boasting $7.5 trillion in assets under management, it’s almost a superpower.

Not all Schwab’s trillions under management will be in the right kind of assets or accounts. I just pulled up that $7.5 trillion total figure from investor relations. Plenty of assets will be, though.

Consider next that Yiu says 10% of customers’ money on Schwab’s platform is typically held in cash. Depending on what exactly you multiply by what, you can quickly forecast a huge income stream here.

All without any of the risks attendant with banking.

I remember seeing a similar dynamic when studying the results of Hargreaves Lansdown many years ago. Interest on customer cash back then contributed nicely to its profits. But this dwindled to nothingness in the years after the financial crisis.

Hargreaves scrambled for a fix for a while. It even worked up a peer-to-peer savings product, though this was ultimately scrapped. But today’s higher interest rates are a panacea.

Hargreaves’ revenue in its latest half jumped 20% thanks to higher interest income and customers holding more cash, presumably spooked by last year’s turmoil. That’s a nice hedge to the bond and equity downturn for the investment platform.

Indeed from its perspective, the best thing a customer can do is hold cash.

From its recent results:

Overall revenue margin [was] between 50 and 55 basis points, primarily reflecting the higher revenue margin on cash resulting from higher interest rates. The margin for each asset class being:

– Funds 38-39 basis points (no change)

– HL Funds 55-60 basis points (no change)

– Shares 30-35 basis points (no change)

– Cash 160-170 basis points

Notice that cash is by far the most profitable asset class for the broker.

How do you rate them?

Higher rates are good news for Hargreaves Lansdown and its shareholders, then. But what about for you and me?

Well I was dismayed to hear Schwab’s US customers leave 10% of their money un-invested.

Yet a quick glance at where customers keep their money on Hargreaves Lansdown suggests we’re even worse – with just over 11% of investment account assets held in cash.

To be fair, Hargreaves Lansdown does pay interest on this cash. From 1% to 2.4% right now, depending on what kind of account you have the cash in, and how much you have there in total.

As a quick comparison, rates seem a little higher at Interactive Investors. Whereas it appears that AJ Bell pays a little less. This is just my quick impression, you’ll have to break out the calculator and look at your own balances for an accurate comparison. And of course consider the total cost of investing.

We’ve thought about adding interest rates to our broker comparison table, incidentally, but the wide variety of permutations – and the frequent rate shifts – means it’s not really feasible.

Hence you’ll have to do your own research I’m afraid.

Money for nothing

Whatever your broker pays you on cash in an investment account, the point is those rates are likely much far lower than you – and your broker – can earn with the best cash or cash-like options.

Which is exactly why uninvested cash is a profit center for the brokers.

Investment platforms need to make money of course. Even zero commission brokers must get paid to stay in business.

Personally I’d prefer to see higher interest rates at the expense of higher explicit charges, at least with the mainstream platforms. (And lower foreign exchange costs while we’re at it. They’re dreadfully expensive at most platforms.)

However I’m in a minority. As with free banking, we’ve been conditioned to look for cheaper-to-zero explicit costs – and to not think about exactly how we’re the product as well as the customer.

Make any cash in an investment account work for you

The bottom line is that if we’re now back in a permanently higher interest rate world, then you need to have a strategy for what you’re doing with your cash allocation.

We have already seen skirmishes in this battle in the past few months.

For instance, there was the short-lived euphoria over the high interest rate Vanguard was paying – but this has since been reduced.

I suspect the previous charging structure was a legacy of the low-rate era that the investing giant hadn’t got around to updating until customers (and us!) paid attention. See the comments to that article for how things played out there.

We’ve also seen growing interest in money market funds.

My co-blogger is skeptical about these, but I see it a bit differently.

I definitely agree that if you want all the benefits of cash, hold cash. Any funds are riskier, even if those risks are tiny. Both in terms of volatility and risk to capital, but also maybe access in a crunch.

However if you have the bulk of your worth inside investment accounts – and a lot of that is in cash – then the extra income you could get from a money market fund paying you more than 3% versus a broker paying 1.5% could be meaningful.

And given how much we obsess over small fee differences around here, I don’t think we should lightly dismiss the cost of uncompetitive cash holdings. So perhaps putting a portion of whatever you want to hold in cash into a money market fund could make sense for some.

There are also fixed income ETFs that fit the bill. I own a big slug of the iShares Ultrashort Bond ETF. (Ultrashort in terms of duration, not in terms of ‘going short’!) This holds mostly investment grade corporate bonds close to maturity. It is very stable, can be disposed of in moments, and currently boasts a weighted yield-to-maturity of 4.7%, if you believe the iShares factsheet.

A better option though if you want to permanently own cash as part of your investment portfolio – to diversify your ‘bond-ish’ 40% or similar of your 60/40 portfolio, say – would be to start opening cash ISAs again. This way you’d get a tax-free and competitive return on your cash. And that cash would actually behave exactly like cash in a crisis. (That is, it would do precisely nothing.)

Just please don’t leave 11% of your portfolio lying around in your investment account as a generic cash balance on a long-term basis. You’re throwing money away.

Or if you do, then maybe also buy some shares in Hargreaves Lansdown or Schwab. That way you might also benefit from such folly!


Stocks and shares ISAs: everything you need to know

ISAs shelter investments from tax

The joy of a stocks and shares ISA is that it legally protects your investments from tax on growth and income. That’s more important than ever as tax-free allowances are being slashed or suppressed across the board.

If you hope to build wealth through investing then shielding your gains from unnecessary tax must be a core part of your strategy.

ISAs are tax-efficient ‘wrappers’ created by the UK government to encourage saving. Any investment inside the ISA wrapper can grow tax-free as long as you don’t break the rules.

Stocks and shares ISAs are provided by high street banks, fund managers such as Vanguard, financial advisors, and specialist online brokers or platforms.

You get a new ISA allowance every tax year. You can put the entire amount into a stocks and shares ISA if you wish.

£20,000 is the maximum amount of new money you can pay into a stocks and shares ISA during the tax year 2022-23. (£9,000 in a JISA1). The same limit will apply from the new tax year: 2023-2024. The tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April.

The ISA deadline is 5 April every year. That’s the last day of the current tax year you can use up your allowance. You get a new allowance from 6 April. But you can’t roll over unused ISA capacity from the previous year.

If you’ve left things late then know it’s enough to have the cash taken off your debit card and inside your ISA by close of business on 5 April. You don’t need to have actually invested the cash for it to qualify for tax-free protection.

Why open a stocks and shares ISA?

A stocks and shares ISA combines three critical features:

  • Legally recognised tax protection. You don’t have to worry about HMRC handing you a large bill because you invested in some sketchy offshore caper.
  • Instant accessibility. You can invest in liquid holdings that can be sold to meet unforeseen difficulties or other life events that occur before you reach pension age.

In short, ISAs are a private investor’s top tax-protection shield, along with pensions.

Which taxes are not paid in a stocks and shares ISA?

The main taxes that you do not have to pay on investments in a stocks and shares ISA are:

  • Income tax on interest – as earned on bonds and bond funds.
  • Dividend income tax – as paid by shares, equity funds, and property funds.
  • Capital gains tax on profits – as paid on the growth in value of taxable assets when you sell them.
  • Inheritance tax – although it’s complicated, and depends on the ISA passing to a spouse or civil partner who’s not been estranged from the deceased.
  • Interest and dividends paid straight out of your ISA are not taxed.
  • ISA withdrawals aren’t taxed, unlike with a pension. (You will pay a penalty if you withdraw from a Lifetime ISA at the wrong time).

Even more reasons to use an ISA

Investing in a stocks and shares ISA is a no-brainer, even if you think your holdings are too small to be caught up in the taxman’s net.

  • Many providers charge you no more for holding an ISA than they do for keeping your assets in a taxable account.
  • Though most of us start out small, your investments can grow surprisingly rapidly. Over the years you will outstrip your ability to manage everything within your tax allowances.
  • Taxes can go up. On top of explicit increases in dividends and capital gains, other UK tax thresholds are being frozen until April 2028. This is a stealth tax, so use your tax shelters while you can.
  • You don’t even have to tell HMRC about your ISA transactions. (Believe me, if you ever have to fill in a tedious capital gains tax form, you’ll fall to your knees with thanks that all your investments are in an ISA.)

ISAs can be mission critical

If you’re on a mission to achieve financial independence (FI) before your minimum pension age2 then stocks and shares ISAs will accelerate you towards your goal.

The best course for most will be to combine ISAs and SIPPs to achieve the FI dream. ISA investments can bridge the gap between your FIRE3 date and your minimum pension age.

The minimum pension age for accessing your personal pension is currently 55. But the government has confirmed it will rise to age 57 at some point in 2028. Thereafter the minimum pension age is due to be set to ten years before your State Pension age.

A stocks and shares ISA is also a great place to stash your pension’s 25% tax-free lump sum so that you can expand the amount of income you can take without being pushed into a higher tax bracket.

Investment ISA types

You can hold investments in the following types of ISA:

  • Stocks and shares ISA
  • Lifetime ISA (choose a stocks and shares version not cash)
  • Junior ISA (again, shares not cash)

ISA providers call stocks and shares ISAs by various names including:

  • Shares ISA
  • Self-Select ISA
  • Ready Made ISA
  • Share Dealing ISA
  • Investment ISA
  • Workplace ISA

They’re all stocks and shares ISAs. But they are given different marketing labels depending on how the provider is trying to appeal to consumers.

A stocks and shares ISA may also be a flexible ISA. This means you can potentially replenish withdrawals you make without running down your ISA allowance.

You can invest in a stocks and shares ISA from age 18 onwards by opening an account with your chosen platform (bank, fund manager, IFA or similar).

We’ve put together a list of providers in our cheapest online broker table. These providers enable you to invest in a DIY stocks and shares ISA. You can see who offers a flexible stocks and shares ISA in the left-hand column.

Stocks and shares ISA rules

You can:

  • Have as many stocks and shares ISAs as you like, so long as you don’t put new money into more than one per tax year.
  • Split money across a stocks and shares ISA, lifetime ISA, cash ISA, and innovative finance ISA, provided you don’t put in more than £20,000 between them,4 nor open more than one of each type, in the same tax year.
  • Transfer money from previous years’ ISAs (of any type) into multiple stocks and shares ISAs with any provider. And vice versa.

Transferring old ISA money or assets does not:

  • Use up your ISA allowance for the current tax year
  • Break the one-type-of-ISA-a-tax-year rule

You can transfer any amount of your previous years’ ISA’s value. Either transfer the whole lot into one ISA, transfer a portion of it into several ISAs, or do any other combo you desire.

How to transfer an ISA

You must transfer the whole balance if you’re transferring your current tax year’s stocks and shares ISA

You can transfer it into a different type of ISA – provided you haven’t already opened one of that type this tax year.

In that scenario, you can also open a new stocks and shares ISA later that tax year.

This is an exception to the one-type-of-ISA-a-tax-year rule.

It works because transferring from one type of ISA to another means that you now count as subscribing to the receiving ISA type.

For example, you transfer from a stocks and shares ISA to a cash ISA. You can now open a new stocks and shares ISA without falling foul of the ‘one type of ISA per tax year’ rule.

Always transfer an ISA to retain the tax-free status of its assets. Don’t withdraw cash and plop it in a new ISA – that uses up your ISA allowance!

Transfer assets in specie (this avoids them being sold to cash) if you are given the option. In specie moves are also known as re-registration.

Other ISA funding rules

You can’t invest new money in a workplace ISA and a stocks and shares ISA.

If you invest £9,000 per tax year in a JISA for each of your children that does not reduce your own ISA allowance.

Most stocks and shares ISAs have minimum required contributions. They are often as low as £50.

Replacing cash withdrawn from a flexible stocks and shares ISA does not use up your ISA allowance. However you can’t replace the value of shares, or other investment types, that you moved out of the account.

It’s worth checking your ISA’s T&Cs whenever you choose a product. Not all of the government’s ISA rules are mandatory. ISA managers do not have to support all features.

Best ISA funds

The main investment vehicles you can include in a stocks and shares ISA are:

The government maintains a comprehensive list of the complete menagerie.

If you are new to investing then our passive investing HQ can explain more.

Remember that the assets listed above are riskier than cash – you can get back less than you put in.

It’s worth regularly reflecting on how much risk you might be able to handle as you build your investing portfolio.

Index trackers are an investment vehicle that combine simplicity and affordability. They are recommended by some of the best investors in the world – and us.

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) provides some investor compensation should your ISA or investment manager go belly up. Do take a look at the link. The scheme is convoluted, to say the least.

Stocks and shares ISA costs

You can expect to pay stocks and shares ISA investment fees that cover:

  • Your ISA provider’s management costs
  • The cost of owning investment funds
  • Dealing fees for trading investments in the open market
  • Fees for special events such as transferring your ISA

All fees should be transparently laid out by your ISA provider and investment fund managers.

Charges that can be paid from monies held outside of your ISA, if your provider agrees, include:

  • ISA provider’s management costs
  • Fees for special / one-off events, such as closing your account

Charges that must be paid from funds held within the ISA include:

  • Dealing fees
  • The cost of owning investment funds

A flexible ISA doesn’t enable you to replace the cost of ISA charges against your allowance.

Beware of transfer fees that can rack up when your provider charges you ‘per line of stock’. For example they might charge you £15 per company stock and investment fund that you own.

Tax efficiency

You can’t transfer most unsheltered assets straight out of a taxable account and into your stocks and shares ISA wrapper.

You generally have to sell the assets first and buy them again inside your ISA. This is colloquially, if not popularly, known as Bed and ISA.

Selling an unsheltered investment can cost you capital gains tax on your profits. But you can duck that by staying within your capital gains tax allowance and defusing your capital gains.

You can transfer employee share save scheme shares directly into an ISA in some circumstances.

If you want to invest more than you can squeeze into your annual ISA allowance, then research tax efficient investing to avoid building up a capital gains tax time bomb.

Inheriting a stocks and shares ISA

Your surviving spouse or civil partner can receive your ISA assets tax-free upon your death. Although do check that the T&Cs of your particular stocks and shares ISA allow for it to remain tax-free and invested after your passing.

++Monevator Minefield Warning ++ The rules below apply equally to spouses and civil partners but we’ll just refer to spouses for brevity’s sake. Unmarried couples do not benefit from these special inheritance rules. See our article on how unmarried couples can protect their finances.

A surviving spouse is given a one-off ISA allowance that equals the value of your ISAs. 

This is called the Additional Permitted Subscription (APS).

A spouse uses the APS to add the value of their deceased partners’ ISAs into ISA accounts held under their own name. 

For example, if you die with ISA assets worth £50,000, then your spouse is entitled to an APS of £50,000.

Plus they get their usual annual ISA allowance on top.

The APS effectively means your spouse benefits from the tax-free status of your ISA assets after your death.

The APS is worth the higher of:

  • Your ISA’s value at the date of your death
  • Or the value of your assets when the account is closed. (This assumes no part of the APS has been used up to that point)

Surprisingly, your spouse still benefits from the APS even if your ISAs are willed to someone else. 

In this scenario, your partner can fund their APS from their own money or other inherited assets.

That said, under most circumstances, a surviving spouse will fill their APS simply by transferring their deceased partner’s ISA assets. 

The APS must be used no later than:

  • Within three years of the date of your death 


  • Within 180 days of the completion of the administration of your estate, if that’s later

The surviving spouse does not have to wait until the estate is settled to use the APS though. 

Managing an inherited ISA

Assets within the deceased’s ISA can be managed by their personal representatives before it is closed. However they can’t make new contributions into the account. 

The ISA continues to grow tax-free until the earlier of:

  • Completion of the administration of the estate.
  • Closure by your executor
  • Three years and one day after your death. The account is automatically closed at this point

If you have multiple ISAs with different providers then your spouse’s APS is divided between them according to the value of the ISAs lodged with each firm. 

Your spouse must claim each portion of their APS from each ISA provider involved.

Again, check that the various providers of your ISAs subscribe to these rules as described. Terms can vary.  

More ISA inheritance rules

(Because there isn’t enough to think about already…)

The other main wrinkle is that your spouse can only receive assets in specie from a stocks and shares ISA by transferring them to the same provider that you held them with.

They can then transfer the assets to another manager once held in their own name.

Another clause is that assets transferred in specie must be the ones held on the date you were told of the death of the investor. (Some might see this rule as pretty heartless. However I don’t know about you but the very first thing I want to know after hearing the news of my partner’s death is the list of non-cash assets they’ve got tucked in their ISAs. Let’s cut to the chase!5)

In specie transfer must be made within 180 days of the assets passing into the beneficial ownership of the surviving spouse.

Your ISAs do not pass on their tax-free status to anyone other than your spouse. 

The tax benefits do not apply if you and your surviving partner were not living together on the date of death, or were legally separated, or in the process of becoming legally separated. 

AIM-ing for even more

Some wealth managers and platforms market AIM ISAs that twin the advantages of a stocks and shares ISA’s tax efficiency with the inheritance tax-elusiveness of Alternative Investment Market (AIM) shares.

Some but not all AIM shares qualify for inheritance tax relief under peculiar government rules that are subject to change.

An AIM ISA is:

  • Risky
  • Not guaranteed to work out
  • Subject to high minimum investments, which add a naughty elite frisson to the escapade

Check out the links above if you need ‘em.

Stocks and shares ISAs aren’t just for the rich

Some people think ISAs are a rich person’s concern. That’s because few have experience of paying capital gains tax, or even income tax on share dividends.

However even modest savings can really add up to a big portfolio in a bull market, at which point the tax protection is invaluable.

Shielding your investment returns from tax like this can make a huge difference to your end result from investing.

Finally, if you want to optimise your ISA to the max then take a look at our cheapest stocks and shares ISA hack. 

Take it steady,

The Accumulator

  1. Junior ISA for kids. []
  2. The moment you can first crack open your personal pension. []
  3. Financial Independence Retire Early. []
  4. Or more than £4,000 in the case of the lifetime ISA. []
  5. Sarcasm. []

The ISA allowance: how it works and how to use it

How much can you put in your ISA piggy bank this year?

The ISA allowance1 is the maximum amount of new money you can put into the range of tax-free savings and investment accounts that make up the ISA family.

The ISA allowance for the current tax year to 5 April is £20,000.

The tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April the following year.

ISAs are a brilliant vehicle for growing your wealth tax-free. But the rules are complicated, and seemingly made up by a bureaucrat with a grudge against humanity.

This article will help you make the most of your ISA allowance.

We’ll iron out the wrinkles leftover from the government’s ISA pages.

What is an ISA?

ISA stands for Individual Savings Account. It’s the UK’s most important tax-free account for savings and investments that you want to access before retirement age.

ISAs are called tax-free wrappers because they legally protect the assets inside the account from:

  • Income tax on interest paid by cash, bonds and bond funds.
  • Capital gains tax paid on the growth in value of assets such as shares, bonds, and funds.

You don’t even have to declare your ISA assets on your self assessment tax return. This can save you a bellyful of tax paperwork.

Your assets remain tax-free as long they’re held in an ISA account. And so long as you don’t have the cheek to die.

You don’t even lose out if you move abroad. (At least, not from the perspective of the UK government…)

Unlike a pension, your ISA funds are typically2 accessible at any time.

You’re also not charged income tax on withdrawals from an ISA – again unlike a pension. So there’s no danger of being pushed into a higher tax bracket by the wealth you accumulate in your ISA.

  • Read up on ISAs Vs SIPPs to decide how to best allocate between them.

ISA accounts: what types are there?

ISA type Allowance3 Eligible investments Notes
Stocks and shares ISA £20,000 OEICs, Unit Trusts, Investment Trusts, ETFs, individual shares and bonds Age 18+. Can be flexible, but only cash can be added and withdrawn
Cash ISA £20,000 Savings in instant access, fixed rate, and regular varieties 16+. Can be flexible
Innovative Finance ISA (IFISA) £20,000 Peer-to-peer loans (P2P), crowdfunding investments, property loans Age 18+. Can be flexible. Not covered by FSCS compensation scheme
Lifetime ISA (LISA) £4,000 As per cash ISA or stocks and shares ISA Open account from age 18 until 40. Pay in until age 50. Only use for buying first home, or from age 60, otherwise penalty charge
Junior ISA (JISA) £9,0004 As per cash ISA or stocks and shares ISA Open until age 18. Child may withdraw funds from 18+

New Help to Buy ISAs are no longer available. If you have one already you can continue to save into it until 30 November 2029.

What about the NISA? NISA stands for New Individual Savings Account. This term described the new-style ISAs brought in by rule changes in 2014. Today every ISA follows the NISA rules, so the jargon is obsolete.

How much can I put in an ISA in 2022 – 2023?

You can save up to £20,000 of new money into your ISAs during the tax year 6 April 2022 to 5 April 2023. That will also be the limit during the tax year 2023 – 2024.  

You can put all £20,000 of your ISA allowance into one ISA5 or split it across any combination of the following ISA types:

  • Cash ISA
  • Stocks and shares ISA
  • Lifetime ISA (£4,000 annual limit)
  • Innovative Finance ISA

A diagram that shows how to split your ISA allowance between the 4 different ISA types.

The rule is that you can only pay new money into one of each ISA type per tax year.

For example you could put £20,000 into a stocks and shares ISA and nothing into any other type.

Or you might split your £20,000 like this:

  • Stocks and shares ISA = £14,000
  • Lifetime ISA = £4,000
  • Innovative Finance ISA = £1,000
  • Cash ISA = £1,000

Or any other combination you like. Just so long as you don’t pay in more than £20,000 within the tax year, and you don’t put new money into more than one of each ISA type.

What about money in previous years’ ISAs? That money does not count towards your annual ISA allowance for the current tax year.

For clarity’s sake, we’ll refer to assets in your previous years’ ISAs as old money. Assets in the current tax year’s ISAs we’ll term new money.

Interest, dividends, and capital gains earned on assets already held within an ISA do not count towards your ISA allowance.

Your £20,000 ISA annual allowance is a ‘use it or lose it’ deal. You can’t rollover any of it into the following tax year.

The ISA deadline for using up your allowance this tax year is 5 April 2023.

More ISA wrinkles

  • Each ISA can be held with the same or a different provider.
  • Payment into a JISA uses up the child’s allowance, not yours.
  • Some providers have all-in-one cash ISAs. With these you can split new money between instant access and fixed-rate options, within a single ISA wrapper. That means you only count as contributing to a single cash ISA.
  • The Help to Buy ISA counts as a cash ISA. If you pay new money into your Help to Buy ISA then you can’t also pay new money into a Cash ISA. A few providers include their Help to Buy ISA within their all-in-one cash ISA.
  • A workplace ISA counts as a stocks and shares ISA. If you’re one of the three Britons6 who has one, then you can’t pay new money into a standard stocks and shares ISA, too. See below for our cunning workaround.
  • You can only claim the government bonus when buying your first home from a Help to Buy ISA or a Lifetime ISA. Not both.

Withdrawing from an ISA: the flexible option

If you withdraw money from your ISA, can you replace it and not reduce your ISA limit?

Yes, but only if your ISA is designated as ‘flexible’.

If your ISA is not flexible (ask your provider) then a withdrawal reduces your tax-free ISA savings as follows:

  • You put £10,000 into your ISA. That reduces your ISA allowance to £10,000.
  • Next you withdraw £5,000.
  • You can only contribute another £10,000 into your ISAs this tax year.
  • Do so, and you’ll have added £15,000 to your ISAs in total by the end of the tax year.

Obviously £15,000 is less than £20,000, and so you’ll not have maximised your annual allowance.

Flexible ISAs get around this problem. More on them below. Again, ask your provider if your ISA is flexible or check its key features documentation.

How many ISAs can I have?

You can have as many ISAs as you like. Or as many as providers are willing to open for you.

However you just can’t contribute new money to multiple ISAs of the same type in the same tax year.

That rule remains the same whether we’re talking about a freshly opened ISA or one that you hold from previous years.

You can put new money into a previous year’s ISA if your ISA provider allows.

If you put new money into a previous year’s ISA of one type then you can’t put new money into another ISA of the same type in the same tax year. You’d have to wait until the next tax year.

For instance, you put money into your existing shares ISA from earlier years. You cannot now put new money into a different shares ISA for the rest of this tax year.

The government calls this the one-type-of-ISA-a-tax-year rule. (Snappy!)

However you can open new ISA accounts by transferring old money into them from previous years’ ISAs.

You could open, say, ten stocks and shares ISAs with multiple providers by transferring old ISA money into them. Let sanity be your guide.

That leads to a workaround for moving new money into more than one ISA of the same type. More on this below.

ISA transfers

An ISA transfer enables you to officially switch an ISA’s holdings to another provider. This way you avoid losing the tax exemption on your assets when moving them.

The transfer rules for any ISA opened in the current tax year are straightforward:

  • You must transfer the whole balance of your ISA…
  • …and you can transfer it at any time to another provider.
  • You can also transfer it to any other type of ISA, or even the same type. (Let’s live a little!)
  • If you transfer from one type of ISA to another, then you count as subscribing to the receiving ISA type. For example, you transfer from a cash ISA to a stocks and shares ISA. You can still open a new cash ISA without contravening the ‘one type of ISA per tax year’ rule.
  • If you transfer from a Lifetime ISA to a different ISA type before age 60, you’ll have to pay a nasty penalty charge.
  • Beware any transfer fees imposed by your current ISA provider.
  • Transfers into a Lifetime ISA must not exceed the £4,000 current tax year limit.

The golden rule with any ISA move is always to transfer your money. Don’t just go “sod it!” and withdraw your cash in a flounce. If you transfer your ISA to another provider, your assets retain their tax-free status. If you just withdraw the money they don’t.

ISA transfer rules for previous years’ ISAs

You have more options with ISAs opened in previous tax years. You can transfer any amount from any of your old ISAs to the same or any other type of ISA.

  • Any number of your old ISAs can be consolidated into a new ISA of the same or different type.
  • Any of your old ISAs can be split by transferring a portion of the balance into multiple ISAs of the same or different types.
  • You can transfer to the same or different providers.

Transferring previous years’ ISAs leaves your current tax year’s allowance untouched.

For example, moving £40,000 from an old ISA into a new ISA still leaves you with a £20,000 ISA allowance for the current tax year.

You could transfer £4,000 into this year’s LISA from an old ISA (of any type), gain the government bonus, and leave your £20,000 allowance entirely intact.

This move maxes out your LISA allowance for the tax year. But you must not then exceed that £4,000 LISA limit by transferring more cash into the LISA during the current tax year.

As before, make sure you transfer an ISA. Employ the new provider’s ISA transfer process to maintain your ISA money’s tax-free status. Don’t withdraw cash or re-register assets using any other method.

As you can see, your old ISA optionality amounts to a near Bacchanalian free-for-all.

Which brings us to our heavily trailed workaround for the one-type-of-ISA-a-tax-year rule.

Hang on to your hats!

Getting around the one-type-of-ISA-a-tax-year rule

Let’s say you wanted to split £20,000 between two new stocks and shares ISAs.

You could do it like this:

  • £10,000 into a new stock and shares ISA.
  • Transfer £10,000 from previous years’ ISAs into another new stocks and shares ISA.
  • Replace the transferred old ISA money by funding a new cash ISA with the remaining £10,000 of your current tax year ISA allowance.

Obviously this manoeuvre requires you having, say, an emergency fund of cash tucked away in your old ISAs. But that’s a good idea anyway.

If you don’t want to open a new cash ISA then you can choose any of the other types except a new stocks and shares ISA. (That’s because of the one-type-of-ISA-a-tax-year rule.)

Flexible ISAs

Flexible ISAs let you withdraw cash and put it back in again later the same tax year. Their special sauce is they allow you to do this without grinding down your current tax year’s ISA allowance or reducing how much you’ve saved tax-free.

The following ISA types may be flexible:

  • Stocks and shares ISA
  • Cash ISA
  • Innovative Finance ISA

Flexibility is not an inalienable right. The ISA provider has to decide to offer it and be prepared to deal with the administrative faff. Providers may offer flexible and inflexible versions of the same ISA type.

This example shows how the flexible ISA rules work:

  • ISA allowance = £20,000
  • Contributed so far = £10,000
  • Remaining contribution = £10,000
  • You choose to withdraw = £5,000

In this case can still pay £15,000 into your flexible ISA before the ISA deadline at the end of the tax year because:

Remaining ISA allowance = £15,000 (£10,000 remaining contribution + £5,000 replacement of the withdrawal.)

A formula for calculating the remaining ISA allowance when you withdraw from a flexible ISA

If your ISA was inflexible then your remaining ISA allowance would be just £10,000. In other words, you couldn’t replace the withdrawn amount. And it would have lost its tax-free status.

Flexible ISAs: contributing factors

Contributions made to an ISA in the same tax year as withdrawals work in this order:

  1. Replace the withdrawal.
  2. Reduce your remaining ISA annual allowance.

Withdrawals from an old flexible ISA can be replaced in the same tax year. This won’t reduce your current ISA allowance, provided the ISA is no longer active.7

Flexible ISAs containing assets from previous tax years and the current tax year work like this:


  1. From money contributed in the current tax year.
  2. From money contributed in previous tax years.

Replacement contributions

  1. Replace previous tax year’s withdrawals.
  2. Replace current tax year withdrawals.
  3. Reduce your remaining ISA annual allowance.

All replacement contributions must happen in the same tax year as the withdrawal.

Some providers say the withdrawal has to be replaced in the same ISA account you took it from.

More quirky than an octogenarian British actor

The ISA rules enable you to put your withdrawn money back into different ISA type(s) with the same provider, if they make that facility available.

Check your provider’s T&Cs. Or send them thousands of emails in BLOCK CAPITALS until they respond.

A flexible stocks and shares ISA allows you to replace the value of cash withdrawn. You can’t replace the value of shares, or other investment types that you moved out of the account, should they afterwards change.

You can sell down your assets, withdraw the cash, and then replace that cash later in the tax year, and buy more assets with it.

Dividend income should also be flexible in a flexible ISA scenario.

If you transfer your flexible ISA to another provider, then check its product is also flexible.

You may lose the ability to replace withdrawals if you don’t replace them before you transfer a flexible ISA. Again, this is determined by your provider’s T&Cs rather than the rules. (Subject them to a paid Twitter campaign to get an answer on this one.)

If your withdrawals result in your account being closed, your provider can allow you to reopen your flexible ISA in the same tax year and replace the money. That applies to old and new ISA accounts.

Again, check with your provider. (Via a billboard installed outside their office if need be.)

Flexible ISA hack to build your tax-free ISA allowance

  1. Open a flexible, easy access cash ISA that accepts ISA transfers.
  2. Transfer your non-flexible old ISAs into the flexible ISA.
  3. Your flexible ISA now accommodates the value of the old ISAs – say £40,000.
  4. If your flexible ISA doesn’t pay table-topping interest then withdraw your cash and spread it liberally among the humdinger savings accounts of your choice, or an offset mortgage.
  5. Move your cash back into the flexible ISA by 5 April of the current tax year. Fill as much of the current year’s ISA allowance as you can, too. For instance another £20,000.
  6. In our example, you now have £40,000 + £20,000 = £60,000 tax-free and flexible.
  7. From April 6 of the new tax year: withdraw your cash and liberally spread it.
  8. Repeat as required.

This method builds up a large and flexible tax-free shelter. One that could prove valuable later in life, when you have more money to tuck away.

For example, perhaps it could become a place to shelter and grow your 25% tax-free pension cash when you take it. This could be instantly transferred into a stocks and shares ISA, come the day.

Or maybe you’ll sell a business, or receive some other windfall.

Watch out for the £85,000 FSCS compensation limit (see below). Open a new flexible ISA with a different authorised firm before you go over that line.

What happens if you exceed the ISA allowance?

HMRC should get in touch if you exceed the ISA allowance. You may be let off for a first offence, but otherwise it will instruct your ISA provider on what action to take.

Action is likely to include your extraordinary rendition to an offshore black site where you will be forced to read HMRC compliance manuals for the rest of your life.

Alternatively, HMRC may require overpayments and excess income to be removed from your account. And also invite you to pay income tax and capital gains (potentially on all assets in the ISA) from the date of the invalid subscription until the problem is fixed.


Your ISA provider may also charge you a fee for the hassle.

You can similarly get into hot water for dropping new money into your ISA as a UK non-resident, or for breaching the one-type-of-ISA-a-tax-year rule, or for breaking the age restrictions.

You can call HMRC on 0300 200 3300 to discuss all this.

Just don’t expect them to admit to the Deep State stuff. Open your eyes sheeple! [Editor’s note: we’re joking.]

FSCS compensation scheme

What if your ISA provider goes bust and your money can’t be recovered? In that case the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) waits in the wings.

  • Innovative Finance – Not covered by the FSCS. You’re on your own.

Watch out for the definition of an ‘authorised firm’. Often multiple brand names sit under the same authorised firm umbrella.

For example, if you have cash at HSBC and First Direct then you’re only covered for £85,000 across both. They are one and the same authorised investment firm.

Investments parked at the same bank should be covered for another £85,000. That’s on top of your cash.

  • The Bank of England provides a list of authorised firms and their ultimate parents. It appears to be updated every couple of years.
  • Check the FCA’s Financial Services Register
  • Firms with matching FRN numbers (also known as registration numbers) are sister brands that only provide you with £85,000 of compensation cover between them

Inheriting an ISA

The tax-free benefits of an ISA can be passed on to a surviving spouse or civil partner. 

(We’ll refer to a ‘spouse’ in the rest of this section but the ISA inheritance rules apply equally to a civil partner. Unfortunately they do not apply to unmarried partners). 

Upon death, all types of ISA (except a JISA) transform into a ‘continuing account of a deceased investor’. 

This so-called ‘continuing ISA’ can then grow tax-free until the deceased’s affairs are settled. 

The tax benefits of the deceased ISAs transfer to their spouse using an Additional Permitted Subscription (APS). 

The APS is a one-time ISA allowance that enables the surviving spouse to expand their ISA holdings up to the value of the deceased’s ISA accounts. 

By this mechanism, the tax-free status of the deceased’s ISAs are passed on to their spouse. 

Unfortunately, the rules descend into a bureaucratic quagmire from here. 

ISA inheritance rules for the Additional Permitted Subscription

A surviving spouse qualifies for the APS even if the ISAs are actually willed to someone else. 

However, a spouse does not qualify if the couple are not living together at the time of death, or the marriage has broken down, they are legally separated, or in the process of being legally separated. 

The value of the APS is the higher of:

  • The ISA’s worth at the date of death
  • Its value when the continuing ISA account is finally closed (assuming part of the APS hasn’t already been used)

The APS must be claimed separately from each of the deceased’s ISA providers. 

You can choose which of the two valuation options above apply to each ISA provider. You don’t have to pick one option that applies across the board with every provider

The APS can be used from the date of death. 

Although you’d normally expect an APS to be funded by the inherited ISA assets, this is not necessary. An APS can be fulfilled by any assets the spouse owns. 

The APS must be used within:

  • Three years from the date of death
  • 180 days after the completion of the administration of the estate, if that’s later. 

The APS does not interfere with the spouse’s own ISA allowance. They get that as normal. 

APS subscriptions count as previous tax year subscriptions.

Therefore a spouse cannot break the one-type-of-ISA-a-tax-year rule when they use their APS. For example, by filling a new stocks and shares ISA after already opening one in the current tax year. 

You should check the terms and conditions of all your ISAs to ensure they adhere to APS provisions. ISA providers aren’t automatically obliged to comply with the APS rules. 

APS rules per ISA provider

One common restriction is that the spouse must use their APS with the same provider that runs the deceased’s ISA account. This leads to extra complications, as we’ll cover below. 

As mentioned, the APS is divided into separate amounts that align to the value of the deceased’s continuing ISA accounts – as held with each of their providers.

For example:

  • A continuing ISA worth £100,000 is held with provider A
  • A continuing ISA worth £50,000 is held with provider B

The surviving spouse can now fund up to £100,000 of APS in ISAs with provider A, and up to £50,000 with provider B. 

You can’t fill ISAs worth £75,000 with both providers. You can only ‘spend’ up to the limit of each APS per provider. 

However, you can split each APS between any number and type of ISA per provider. (Although there are restrictions on the Lifetime ISA.)

You can fill both new and existing ISAs with each provider. 

Transferring inherited ISA assets

In specie transfers from a continuing stocks and shares ISA must be made within 180 days of the assets passing into the beneficial ownership of the surviving spouse.

The in specie transfer can only be made to a stocks and shares ISA held by the spouse with the continuing ISA’s provider. 

The assets must be the same as those held on the date of death. 

Alternatively you can sell the investments for cash. The money can then be used to fund the APS with slightly fewer restrictions. 

You can always transfer your ISAs to another provider as normal – after you’ve used your APS. 

Lifetime ISA APS restrictions 

You can’t open a new Lifetime ISA unless you’re aged between 18 to 40. 

You can’t pay into an existing Lifetime ISA unless you’re under 50. 

The APS does use up your £4,000 annual Lifetime ISA allowance. 

You can’t pay APS into a Lifetime ISA if you’ve already paid into one in the current tax year. 

A continuing ISA’s tax-free growth limits

Before the deceased assets are transferred via the mechanism we’ve just described, they grow tax-free in continuing ISAs until:

  • Completion of the administration of the estate
  • The accounts closure by the deceased’s executor
  • Three years and one day after the date of death. Then the account can be closed by the ISA provider 

The earliest of these dates applies. 

The value of the deceased’s ISA holdings count towards their estate. The tax-free benefits are only passed to a surviving spouse. 

Inheritance ISAs are a marketing label not an additional type of ISA. Every ISA can be inherited as described above. But please check your provider’s T&Cs for additional restrictions. 

What happens to my ISA if I move abroad?

You can still put new money into your ISA for the remainder of the tax year when you stop being a UK resident. But you can’t contribute new money again until your residential status changes back.

Your ISA assets will continue to grow free of UK tax. But watch out! Your new country of residence may demand a slice.

In addition:

  • You should still be able to transfer ISAs without losing your tax exemption.
  • Ditto for withdrawing money from a flexible ISA and replacing it.
  • Ditto for inheriting an ISA.

Check with your provider before doing anything, just to be safe.

You should also tell your ISA provider when you’re no longer a UK resident. The UK means England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are excluded.

If you split your time between the UK and other territories you can do a residency test. This will determine your status. Fun!

You don’t lose your ISA annual allowance if you’re a Crown employee serving overseas, or their spouse / civil partner.

Any questions?

Well, we’re sure this brief post has cleared everything up… But do let us know in the comments if we’ve missed a bit.

Take it steady,

The Accumulator

Note: This article on the ISA allowance was updated in March 2023. Reader comments below may refer to an older version. Check the date to be sure.

  1. Also known to the government but to nobody else as the ‘subscription limit’. []
  2. Exceptions: funds in a Junior ISA before the child reaches age 18, Lifetime ISA, Innovative Finance ISA loan lock-ins, and fixed-term/regular saver Cash ISAs where you’ll pay various penalties for early release. []
  3. Max per year, per person. []
  4. per child []
  5. The max contribution into a LISA is £4,000 a year. []
  6. Disclaimer: exaggeration for comic effect. []
  7. That is to say you’re no longer filling it with new money. []

Weekend reading: Saving versus investing

Weekend reading: Saving versus investing post image

What caught my eye this week.

Now and then an investing writer will take aim at a staple of the genre – all those articles proclaiming the ‘miracle’ of compound interest, which detail how Precocious Pete who starts saving at 20 will trounce Tardy Tarquin who doesn’t get going until 40.

Nonsense, the doubters say. Pete hasn’t got a bean to spare, and Tarquin is rolling in it. Compound interest won’t do much for either of them (apparently). Instead it’s all about savings.

It’s basically shock jock blogging. Slaying the sacred cow to the awed gasps of onlookers.

And too bad if those onlookers get splattered in blood.

Okay, so there’s some truth in what these iconoclastic articles – which at best champion saving over investing, and at worst throw in the towel – say.

If you have £1,000 and you compound it by 10%, you still only have £1,100. Nobody is retiring on that.

In contrast nearly all 20-year olds reading Monevator can find £100 down the back of the sofa.

Ergo, like a complication-free hookup, compound interest is a myth that will do little for you until you’re too old to be bothered with it.

So forget about it! Save more when you (hopefully) earn a lot more in your 50s. Go to the beach instead.

I paraphrase but that’s the gist.

Them versus us

I’ve noticed these articles tend to be written by three kinds of people:

  • Young people with little yet in the way of assets who wonder where’s their snowball?
  • Older people who stumble into income or assets in later life, which transforms their finances.
  • (Usually much) older people who never saved enough to retire early, and seem cross about it.

Notably not on the list are people who did start saving in their 20s. Who saw their snowball. And who now tell you compound interest can do a lot of heavy lifting.

People like me!

I was a regular saver from my teens. I’ve never earned six-figures, and most years didn’t trouble the higher-tax bracket (albeit later thanks to pension contributions). I mostly lived in London, which is expensive.

On the other hand I didn’t have kids, a car, or a drug habit.

And by the time I hit my 40s, my portfolio’s average annual return – the compound interest bit – was more or less equal to my earnings, net of tax.

Undoubtedly I made sacrifices to get there. Maybe I was too frugal. There are reasons why what seemed to me a generously-provisioned life would cause others to chafe. I’m a good enough (active) investor, which also helped.

But none of that disproves the impact of compound interest.

Roll the calendar another ten years and even despite a horrible 2022 – for my portfolio, my earnings, and my mortgage rate – I’m still (touch wood) set fair.

Savings played a big part in this journey. But I’ve never earned enough to be set without compound interest helping out too.

For sure I’m glad the books I stumbled upon in my 20s hit me over the head with a graph that went up and to the right, thanks to compound interest.

Rather than one that told me not to bother – not until I’d climbed over enough rats to get high enough up the greasy pole to stick at it and save in my 50s, 60s, and who knows maybe into my 70s.

Saving versus interest versus time

In my view savings and investing – and fitting your budget to suit your goals – are all important.

Doh, you say. (Unless you’re drafting your anti-compound interest post as we speak?)

Elsewhere ever-reliable Nick Maggiulli tackled this savings/investing duality in a novel way this week, with what he calls the ‘Wealth Savings Rate’.

It’s a way of seeing how your pot will grow (double) through adding new money via savings, as well as through compound interest.

Early on your Wealth Savings Rate is high. New money moves the dial materially.

But later, a whole year of extra savings might amount to one or two percent of your portfolio’s value. It’s the compounding that’s motoring you forward. By then you can run the numbers on leaving work if you want to.

Nick shows how long it will take to double your money under different saving and return scenarios:

It’s a cool lens he’s come up with, and one I can’t remember looking through this clearly before. Check out the full post on Nick’s blog, Of Dollars and Data.

And do keep saving and investing if you want to be financially independent sooner rather than later!

Have a great weekend.

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