Ipswich Building Society boss backs calls for ‘fairer’ rules on ISA savings

IPSWICH Building Society is backing a call by the Building Societies Association to end “unfairness” in the rules on Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) and give more support to savers.

At present, the total amount that can be invested annually in a stocks and shares ISA is �10,680 but if savers wish to invest in a cash ISA, they can only invest half this amount.

In addition, while savers can chose to transfer a cash ISA into a stocks and shares ISA, the reverse is not permitted.

In its submission to the Treasury ahead of this year’s Budget, on March 21, the Building Societies Association (BSA) has called on Chancellor George Osborne to provide more support to savers as well as borrowers.

The BSA says savers in particular have been experiencing a “perfect storm” of an all time low bank rate, coupled with relatively high inflation, which has led to hardship for many who rely on savings for income.

It says some relief could easily be provided by the Chancellor by removing the restriction on the amount of the total ISA allowance that can be saved in a cash ISA.

“It seems illogical for this limit to be set at half the overall annual allowance, giving those nervous of stocks and shares access to only half of their annual ISA allowance,” it says.

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The BSA also wants to see transfers permitted from stocks and shares ISAs to cash ISAs which, it says, would make adult ISAs consistent with the new Junior ISA, and allow savers, particularly those approaching retirement, to transfer into less volatile cash investments, so protecting their nest egg.

Paul Winter, chief executive of the Ipswich Building Society, said: “We are backing the calls made by the BSA to the Chancellor, asking for savers to have the option of investing their full ISA allowance into a cash ISA, and giving those who hold stocks and shares ISA’s the opportunity to move this money into a cash ISA.

“This would be much fairer and give peace of mind to those who want to save without taking as much risk,” he added.

For borrowers, the BSA believes that the slab structure of Stamp Duty continues to cause market distortions which are particularly unhelpful in a fragile property market. The structure could remove distortions by charging stamp duty on a marginal system similar to income tax and rates could be set to ensure that there is no net effect on tax revenue.

The removal of the Stamp Duty holiday for first time buyers on properties of �250,000 or less is also unhelpful, it says. “Even though in isolation it will not promote a revival in first time buyer purchases, psychologically its removal may have a far greater negative impact on consumer sentiment,” the BSA adds.

BSA director-general Adrian Coles said: “We’re calling today for the Chancellor to make small changes via the Budget that will give some assistance to millions of savers in the UK.

“Whilst the lower for longer bank rate environment has been a boon to existing mortgage borrowers, it has effectively delivered a kick in the teeth to savers. Plus it has reduced the flow of mortgage funds for new borrowers and been a business challenge too.

“In an ideal world we’d like to see the bank rate move up a little when the economic timing is right. But we are aware of the potential repayment problems that this might cause some borrowers as mortgage costs rise. So the message on base rates is no sudden shocks please.”