Competition hots up now that tax free Isas are back in fashion

Junior accounts can help develop good savings habits for life. Photograph: PA
Junior accounts can help develop good savings habits for life. Photograph: PA
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With the new tax year starting on Friday, competition between Isa providers is being ramped up as savers look to take out new deals.

While the Isa market has been lacklustre recently in the low-interest environment, there are still good reasons why an Isa could be worthwhile, depending on your individual savings needs.

And in recent weeks, there have also been signs of renewed life in the Isa market. So here’s a guide on how Isa saving could help you.

How do Isas work?

Isas are a tax efficient way of building a savings pot. Money held in Isas is ring-fenced from the taxman.

You think Isas are no longer worth it? Think again

The introduction of the personal savings allowance has led many savers to wonder whether it’s worth bothering with a cash Isa, given that savers no longer pay tax on the first £1,000 of interest, or £500 for higher rate taxpayers.

But Sarah Coles, a personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says: “The key is what you could save further down the line. The tax savings on Isas accumulate as your savings build. These savings will be magnified if interest rates rise, you move tax brackets, or the savings allowance is cut.”

Meanwhile, there have been signs of life returning to the cash Isa market this spring. Rachel Springall, a finance expert at moneyfacts.co.uk, says: “As we have seen over 100 rate rises to Isas since the start of 2018, it’s worthwhile for savers to consider utilising their Isa allowance for the long-term benefits, and avoid any delay in applying for the top rates before the buzz of Isa season fizzles out.”

How can you make the most of your allowances?

If you’re saving for the longer term, stocks and shares may be an option to consider. Or a cash Isa may be more suitable if you want to access your money quickly and don’t like the idea of risk.

“You can tailor your Isa to take exactly the amount of risk that suits your needs,” says Coles. “You can opt for a cash account, conservatively invested funds, more adventurous funds, single company shares, or any combination of all of them. You can also transfer between assets if your circumstances change.”

The Isa allowance for 2018/19 will remain unchanged at £20,000.

What about children?

There are cash, as well as stocks and shares versions of Junior Isas, also known as “Jisas”. Parents can open a Junior Isa and manage the account on their child’s behalf. The child can’t withdraw the money until they turn 18.

Coles says Jisas can be a good way of getting children into the savings habit, which will stay with them into adulthood. “In our experience, a year after a Jisa becomes the property of an 18-year-old, more than 90 per cent of Jisas remain invested,” she says.

How about people saving for their first home?

Some Isas have government bonuses to help you on to the property ladder. Adults aged under 40 can open a Lifetime Isa, which helps people save for their first home, or their retirement, in the same pot. Help to Buy Isas are also available to those saving for their first home. Both have pros and cons, so it’s worth weighing these up.