Top 10 myths about… ISAs

There are only a few days left to take advantage of ISA tax reliefs for the 2013/14 tax year. Danny Cox explores the 10 popular held misconceptions about ISAs.

Myths about ISAs

1              ISAs are complicated

If you’re already familiar with how savings and investments work, all you need to know about ISAs is they are simply a wrapper that shelters any gains from tax.

There are two types of ISA: Cash and stocks and shares. A cash ISA works in the same way as a savings account, except you pay no tax on any interest earned. With a stocks and shares ISA you pay no further tax on the income and no capital gains tax on any profits.

The ISA allowance has increased to £11,520 for this tax year (6 April 2013 to 5 April 2014). Up to £5,760 can be saved into a Cash ISA, with the balance (up to the £11,520 limit) invested in a stocks and shares ISA.

2              ISAs are expensive

For many investors, owning funds is no more expensive in ISA – the tax wrapper and the tax benefits therefore come free.

3              I can’t withdraw my money from an ISA easily

Unless you have chosen a fixed term ISA, you can normally withdraw your money at any time.  Remember if you choose a stocks and shares ISA you should be investing with at least a five years in mind.

4              It is difficult and time consuming to open an ISA

With many ISA providers you can open your ISA on line or by phone in as little as five minutes.

“Investing at the start of the tax year means that you will receive up to 12 months more tax savings on the interest, or income, and growth from ISA than if you leave it until the end of the tax year.”

5              ISAs aren’t worth the effort

Why wouldn’t you want to pay less tax?  If you already have cash savings or stockmarket investments, use your ISA allowance to stop the taxman taking a slice of your profits.

6              You are only allowed to have one ISA

Your cash ISA and stocks and shares ISA do not have to be with the same company. In fact each new tax year you can choose to save or invest with any company you like, regardless of who you may have opened an ISA with previously.

But holding different ISAs with different companies can make them difficult to manage. That’s why investment supermarkets have proven extremely popular. They allow you to pick and mix investments from all the major investment companies and hold them all in one account.

7              I’ve got some savings in a deposit account so I don’t need an ISA

Savings accounts are taxed, ISAs are not. Everybody earns interest tax-free in a cash ISA.

8              It is better to wait until the end of the tax year to open your ISA

Investing at the start of the tax year means that you will receive up to 12 months more tax savings on the interest, or income, and growth from ISA than if you leave it until the end of the tax year. Less tax should mean higher returns for you.

9              Opening ISAs means investing in the stock market

If you do not wish to invest in the stock market now, you should still make full use of your ISA allowance.  Invest in a stock market ISA that has a cash option, so you can wait and make your investment decision later.

10           Opening an ISA means completing a tax return

ISAs do not have to be recorded on your tax return, so not only do they save you tax they also make your life easier.

If in doubt, take advice

Financial advice suits those who don’t have the time or confidence to make their own decisions themselves. If you have any doubts how to make the most of your ISA, pension and financial plans, seek advice.

Please note: tax rules are subject to change over time, and the value of any tax benefits will depend on your personal circumstances. Also, the value of investments can fall as well as rise, so if you invest in a stocks and shares ISA you could get back less than you invested.