Savers celebrate rising interest rates, but it could mean an unexpected tax charge

After more than a decade of low interest rates, many people will be pleased to see the amount their savings are earning is starting to rise. Yet, it could mean you need to pay a tax charge. 

Interest from saving accounts may be liable for Income Tax. When the average interest rate was below 1%, you usually had to have a substantial amount held in cash accounts to face a tax charge. However, as interest rates rise, you could unexpectedly cross the tax threshold.

So, read on to find out when you need to pay tax on interest and how you could avoid a bill. 

Do you benefit from the Personal Savings Allowance?

The Personal Savings Allowance (PSA) lets you earn interest on savings without paying tax. Not everyone benefits from the PSA, and the amount varies depending on your Income Tax bracket.

For 2023/24, the PSA is:

  • £1,000 a year if you’re a basic-rate taxpayer
  • £500 a year if you’re a higher-rate taxpayer
  • £0 if you’re an additional-rate taxpayer. 

The PSA covers any interest you earn from savings accounts, as well as corporate bonds, government bonds, and gilts. It could also include interest earned on other currencies you hold in a UK-based savings account.

If the interest you earn exceeds the PSA, or you don’t benefit from it, it’s added to your other income when calculating tax liability. So, if you’re an additional-rate taxpayer, you could pay 45% tax on the interest your savings earn. 

Usually, HMRC will make changes to your tax code to cover the tax charge on the interest you earn. For example, you may get a lower Personal Allowance if you exceeded the PSA in the previous tax year.

You don’t normally need to act to pay the tax, but you should let HMRC know if the interest you earn is no longer above the PSA so they can adjust your tax code accordingly. 

Using your ISA allowance could reduce your tax bill

If you’re not using your ISA allowance, doing so could reduce your tax bill.

In 2023/24, your annual ISA allowance is £20,000. The interest cash savings generate when they’re held in a Cash ISA are free from Income Tax. So, if you could exceed the PSA, it’s worth reviewing if you’re using your full ISA allowance and the interest rates available on Cash ISAs. 

To access the most competitive interest rates from an ISA, there may be additional requirements. For instance, some may require you to deposit a set amount each month or won’t allow you to make withdrawals for several years. Make sure you assess the terms and conditions of an account and that it suits your needs first. 

A savings account may not be the most appropriate place for your money

While interest rates are increasing, if you benefit from the PSA, you’ll typically need to have a substantial amount held in your savings account before a tax charge is due. 

According to MoneySavingExpert, as of May 2023, a top easy access account pays an interest rate of 3.71% (AER). With this interest rate:

  • A basic-rate taxpayer could place £26,954 into the account before exceeding the PSA
  • A higher-rate taxpayer could deposit £13,477 into the account before facing a tax charge.  

Savings accounts play an important role in many financial plans. As well as being useful for your day-to-day spending, they often make sense for your emergency fund, which you want easy access to. However, you should be mindful of keeping large sums in cash accounts, as the value may fall in real terms.

While an interest rate of 3.71% may seem good when you compare it to recent years, it’s still much lower than the rate of inflation. When the cost of goods and services rises at a faster pace than your savings are growing, the value of savings in real terms decreases. 

If you could face a tax charge because you’re holding large sums in cash, it may be worth looking at alternatives. One option, depending on your circumstances, could be to invest, which may potentially deliver returns that keep pace with inflation. However, there are still tax considerations if you decide to invest.

Creating a tailored plan could help you get the most out of your money and manage your tax liability. 

Contact us to review your financial plan

Factors outside of your control affect your financial plan, from rising interest rates to inflation. As a result, it’s important to review your plan with these circumstances in mind to ensure it’s still appropriate for reaching your long-term goals. 

If you have any questions about how rising interest rates or other factors may affect you, please get in touch.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

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