Flexible ISAs: What they are and how they work
Before opening an ISA, it’s worth checking whether it’s flexible to make sure it’s the right account for you.
An ISA is a tax-efficient way to save money. Each tax year, you're given an annual ISA allowance (or a limit to the amount you can pay into an ISA). For the 2022/23 tax year, this stands at £20,000.
When comparing ISA accounts, you might notice that some are termed "flexible". This guide explains what flexible ISAs mean and why they can be useful.
Is my money safe?
The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) guarantees that it will step in to compensate the first £85,000 (£170,000 for a joint account) you have saved with a UK-authorised bank, building society or credit union in the event that the business goes bust.
Best flexible cash ISA rates
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What is a flexible ISA?
A flexible ISA is an ISA that lets you withdraw funds and pay them back into your ISA account in the same tax year, without affecting your annual ISA allowance. This can apply to cash ISAs, stocks and shares ISAs and innovative finance ISAs, but not all providers offer flexible ISAs so you’ll need to check.
A flexible ISA means you won’t be penalised if you access some of your ISA funds.
How does a flexible ISA work?
Let’s say you’ve paid £20,000 into a flexible cash ISA, using your full ISA allowance for that year. In the same tax year, you decide to withdraw £10,000. Because the ISA is flexible, the withdrawal doesn’t affect your annual allowance and you can repay the £10,000 before the end of the tax year.
Note that you must repay it into the same ISA account you took it out of, although you can withdraw from a flexible cash ISA and replace it in a flexible stocks and shares or innovative finance ISA instead.
By contrast, if the ISA was not flexible and you’d paid in £20,000 but withdrawn £10,000, you wouldn’t be able to repay the £10,000 as this would mean you’d have exceeded your annual allowance.
Do I need a flexible ISA?
Ultimately, whether you need a flexible ISA is up to you. But if you think you could get close to using up your £20,000 annual ISA allowance and you plan to make withdrawals, it’s well worth choosing a flexible ISA.
On the other hand, if you know you won’t get close to reaching your annual ISA limit or you don’t plan to make any withdrawals, choosing a flexible ISA won’t be so important.
Pros and cons of flexible ISAs
- Enables you to withdraw funds and replace them within the same tax year without impacting your annual ISA allowance
- You can also withdraw funds from a cash ISA and replace them in a flexible stocks and shares or innovative finance ISA
- Good option if you need to access funds in an emergency
- Not all ISAs are flexible
- Flexible ISAs might not necessarily offer the best rates
- You must repay the funds into the same ISA account (unless you choose a different type of ISA)
Choosing a flexible ISA could be a great option if you’re worried that you will get close to using your full £20,000 ISA allowance and might need to make some withdrawals. Just remember that not all providers offer flexible ISAs and it’s important to check how competitive the account is before making a decision.
Frequently asked questions
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