Who can invest?
All UK residents aged 16 or over can open a Cash ISA; the age limit increases to 18 for a Stocks and Shares ISA. Parents wishing to contribute money to their children's ISAs are subject to tight tax conditions on what is permissible, and should consult an adviser in such matters.
You cannot hold an ISA jointly with anyone else or on behalf of someone else.
Crown employees working overseas and treated as residents are also eligible to take out an ISA.
Who offers ISAs?
A wide range of financial companies including unit trust groups, investment trust companies, insurance companies, stockbrokers, banks and building societies. Fund Supermarkets also offer ISAs; for more information read our Education Guide.
In each case a manager approved by the Inland Revenue will administer the account. The manager is responsible for the administration of your ISA, including registering it with the Inland Revenue.
Although nearly all funds can go into an ISA, not all fund providers offer an ISA wrapper to go with their funds. In this instance 'wrapper only' ISAs can be purchased from third parties to put these funds into. A fee will normally be charged for the administration of a third party 'wrapper only' ISA like this.
Can I take my money out at any time?
Yes, subject to the terms of your ISA.
If you do and then want to put it back later in the year, it will count against your normal ISA subscription limits for the year.
Can I move my ISA from one manager to another?
Yes. You can transfer your ISA to a different manager at any time but be aware that your existing manager may want to charge for this, or put other conditions on withdrawal.
If you are transferring money invested in the current tax year, then you must transfer all of it. Money that was invested in earlier years can be transferred in smaller batches, but you should check whether your existing provider will allow this or insist that the transfer has to be all or nothing.
You need to make sure that your new ISA manager is willing and able to accept any transfers.
Do not transfer your ISA by closing your current account and opening a new one, the transfer must occur directly between the two managers.
Money in a Stock and Shares ISA can only be moved to another stocks and shares vehicle, whereas money in a Cash ISA can be moved to either type of ISA.
Remember that even though funds may have been moved to a different manager, the annual subscription limit still applies.
What if things go wrong?
Immediately take up your complaint with the ISA manager. There will be a complaints procedure to help deal with it.
If the manager cannot satisfy your query, take the matter up with the manager's regulator or the Financial Ombudsman Service. The FOS service is free to consumers. Further information is available on the FOS website: www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk , and it can be contacted by telephone on 0845 080 1800.
The manager is obliged to tell you who to contact.
What if I take out too many ISAs?
Mistakes happen but you must tell the manager straight away. You cannot invest in more than one Stocks and Shares ISA, or into more than one of the same type of Cash ISA in the same tax year.
Any tax relief given in error the manager will repay to the Inland Revenue. They will pass full details on to you, which you must then report to your Tax Office if you are due to pay tax.
For Insurance ISAs the policy must end if your subscription is invalid. Again tax relief given in error will be paid to the Inland Revenue and you must report to the Tax Office.
You may have additional tax to pay if you are a higher rate taxpayer.
What about PEPs (Personal Equity Plans)?
On 6th April 2008 PEPs were re-designated as Stocks and Shares ISAs, and are now subject to the rights and rules affecting them.
And TESSAs (Tax Exempt Special Savings Accounts)?
On 6th April 2008 TESSAs were re-designated as Cash ISAs. Transfers are allowed from previously held cash accounts to new Stocks and Shares ISAs without affecting the investor's current year subscription limit.
If you have any general questions about the tax rules for ISAs and PEPs, you can call the HMRC ISA Helpline on 0845 604 1701.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulates financial services and protects consumers. The FSA can tell you if a firm is authorised, and can help you if you have a complaint and are unsure whom to contact. However, it cannot recommend firms or advisers, or tell you whether a particular investment is right for you.
The FSA also has a wide range of user-friendly booklets and factsheets. These are available from the FSA Consumer Helpline on Tel 0300 500 5000 (call rates may vary) or from the FSA's Money Made Clear website www.moneymadeclear.fsa.gov.uk.
The FSA website contains ISA Comparative Tables. These let you compare stocks and shares ISAs based on unit trusts and open-ended investment companies from different ISA managers.