Can you withdraw money from your stocks and shares ISA?

If you want or need to take money out of a stocks and shares ISA, make sure you're aware of the rules and implications.

Nobody saves purely for the pleasure of saving. They do it because they expect to need the money at some point. So, if you’ve been squirrelling money away into a stocks and shares ISA and want or need access to the money, here’s what you need to know about making a withdrawal.

Can I withdraw money from my stocks and shares ISA?

Yes. With stocks and shares ISAs, you can usually take money out whenever you need it. So if, for example, you’ve been saving to pay for a big life event – a wedding or a child going to university, for example – you shouldn’t have any problems accessing your funds.

Any returns you have made on the money you invested into the ISA will be tax free.

Bear in mind that while there are no restrictions on withdrawing money from a stocks and shares ISA, this isn’t true of all types of ISA. Lifetime ISAs, for example, are intended to be used to either fund your retirement or help you pay for a first home worth up to £450,000. There is a 25% penalty fee on the amount you take out if you withdraw before the age of 60 for reasons other than to put a deposit on your first home.

How can I withdraw money from stocks and shares ISA?

In most cases, the money you pay into a stocks and shares ISA will be invested – into funds or stocks and shares, for example.

Before you can withdraw invested funds, the investments will need to be sold and converted into cash.

This process can take a few days, so it’s a good idea to make your withdrawal request ahead of when you need the money to make sure it’s available in time.

Once your investments have been converted into cash, you should be able to transfer the funds into a bank account in your name.

Bear in mind that if you need to make a withdrawal at a specific time, you will be subject to the volatility of the market at that time. There is a risk your investments could have fallen in value if conditions are unfavourable. The longer your money has been invested before you withdraw it, the less likely this is to be an issue. That’s because, by investing over the long term (at least 5 years), you have a better chance of any short-term volatility being smoothed out.

How does withdrawing money from my stocks and shares ISA affect my annual ISA allowance?

Until relatively recently – April 2016, to be precise – the rules on withdrawing money from an ISA were quite restrictive. Under these rules, if you withdrew money from any kind of ISA and then paid the same amount back in later in the same tax year, the repayment would count towards your annual tax-free ISA allowance.

Let’s clarify this with an example. The ISA allowance back in the 2015–2016 tax year was £15,240. Let’s say, for example, that you paid £10,000 into a stocks and shares ISA on 6 April 2015. This would have left you with £5,240 left to contribute (assuming you hadn’t paid into any other types of ISA). In September 2015, you needed some of the money in your ISA for an emergency, so withdrew £2,000. In November 2015, your financial situation had recovered, so you duly put £2,000 back into your stocks and shares ISA. Under the rules at the time, you would have now paid £12,000 into your ISA (the original £10,000, plus the repayment of £2,000) so would have only had a further £3,240 to contribute that tax year.

Doesn’t seem very fair, does it? You’ve only got £10,000 (plus or minus any positive or negative returns) in your ISA, but you’ve officially contributed £12,000. All because of a temporary cash flow issue.

Fortunately, the government recognised this and – as of April 2016 – introduced the concept of a flexible ISA.

What is a flexible ISA?

Flexible ISAs let you move money in and out of an ISA without it affecting your annual ISA allowance – provided that the money is replaced within the same tax year.

Let’s take the example we used above, applied to the current ISA allowance. Let’s say that on 6 April 2022, you opened a flexible stocks and shares ISA and paid in £10,000. Based on the 2022–23 annual ISA allowance, you’d have £10,000 of your ISA allowance left to contribute. In September 2022, you withdrew £2,000 to fund an emergency.

So far so similar, but this is where the difference lies. Under the new rules, if you repaid that £2,000 into your ISA in November 2022, it wouldn’t count towards your ISA allowance a second time. So you’d still have £10,000 of your allowance left.

As the name suggests, this type of ISA makes things more flexible and avoids savers missing out on the full tax benefits of ISAs simply because of cash flow issues.

However, there are a couple of caveats (aren’t there always).

  1. Only cash ISAs, stocks and shares ISAs and innovative finance ISAs can be flexible. The rules on flexibility don’t apply to lifetime ISAs.
  2. ISA providers don’t currently have to offer flexible ISAs. It’s entirely up to them. So, if you think you might need the flexibility to withdraw and repay money, look out for an investment platform that offers a flexible stocks and shares ISA.

Can I take money out of one stocks and shares ISA to pay into a different ISA?

The rules here aren’t entirely straightforward, as the answer to whether you can do this depends on whether you’ve already paid into a stocks and shares ISA in the same tax year. You can only pay into one stocks and shares ISA per tax year, so in this case, you couldn’t take money out of one ISA and pay it into another.

Technically, assuming you’d made no other contributions in a given tax year, you could withdraw money you’d paid in during a previous tax year and pay it into a different ISA. But this would count as a new contribution towards your ISA allowance.

If you want to move money because you’ve found a better ISA, rather than because you need the money in the short term, there is a better way. If you follow the official ISA transfer process, it will allow you to move money directly from one ISA to another without it affecting your ISA allowance. You can even transfer money you’ve contributed in the same tax year from one stocks and shares ISA to another. In this case, you’d need to transfer the entirety of the current year’s contribution to avoid breaking the “one stocks and shares ISA per year” rule.

Will I incur fees if I withdraw money from my stocks and shares ISA?

Typically you won’t need to pay any charges to withdraw money from a stocks and shares ISA. It’s worth double-checking with the provider to be certain though. In some cases, if you need money more quickly than a provider’s process usually allows, you may need to pay an urgent withdrawal fee.

Money you take out of an ISA is not taxable.

Should you take money out of your stocks and shares ISA?

Zoe Stabler

Finder expert Zoe Stabler answers

As is often the case, this is a simple question with a not-so-simple answer.

In fact, I’m going to answer it with 2 questions for you to ask yourself, so you can work out whether it’s a good idea for your circumstances.

1. Why do you want to take the money out?

Your reasons for wanting to withdraw will influence whether taking money out is a good idea, and how to go about it.

  • If you’ve been saving for a reason (to pay for a wedding or to help fund your retirement, for example), it may simply be time to take advantage of the money you’ve saved and congratulate yourself for a job well done.
  • If you want to move funds to a different stocks and shares ISA, which offers better service or lower fees, for example, then feel free to do so – but use the official ISA transfer process so you don’t lose the tax benefits.
  • If you’re having a wobble because the stock market is struggling and your investments aren’t doing as well as you’d hoped, but you don’t actually need the money just yet, try not to panic. Remember, investing is for the long term (at least 5 years, and ideally more). While it’s not a guarantee, most short-term volatility is evened out in the long run. Selling in a downturn could see you making losses that could be avoided if you hold your nerve.
  • If you need the money for an unexpected emergency, then ask yourself the next question.

2. Do you have other savings that might be better to use?

If you need cash in an emergency, there are a couple of reasons why it might be best to leave your stocks and shares ISA intact if possible.

Firstly, the tax benefits of saving into an ISA are well worth having, so if you have non-ISA savings, it could be better to use them first.

Secondly, as we’ve highlighted above, the longer you can keep money invested, the better your chances of strong returns. So if you also have cash savings – even if they’re held in a cash ISA – it might be better to use these rather than your stocks and shares ISA.

Of course, you’ll need to weigh up these considerations against any restrictions your other savings may have on withdrawals or perks they may offer. In the end, you are free to do what you wish with your savings. And, if life throws a spanner in the works and you need money unexpectedly, it’s arguably better to take it out of a stocks and shares ISA than to take out debt to cover the expense.

Pros and cons of withdrawing money from a stocks and shares ISA

Pros

  • No tax is payable on money withdrawn from a stocks and shares ISA
  • Switching ISA provider may offer better service or lower fees, but use the official ISA transfer process
  • If you have a flexible ISA, you can pay the money back in within the same tax year without affecting your ISA allowance.

Cons

  • If you withdraw funds during a stock market downturn, you risk making investment losses
  • If you move money from one provider to another without using the official transfer process, you will lose some tax benefits
  • Unless you have a flexible ISA, paying the money back in later in the tax year will affect your annual ISA allowance.

Bottom line

You can withdraw money from a stocks and shares ISA at any time, and the money you take out will be tax free. But whether you should access the funds in your stocks and shares ISA, and the best way to do it, depends on your reasons. Use our guide to understand the pros and cons, and what to expect if you need to take money out.

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