ISA Information UK Expats Need to Know

by | Jan 24, 2024

You may be getting the wrong advice about ISAs

Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) are only recognised for their tax-efficient status by HR Revenue & Customs (HMRC) within the UK for Ordinary Residents. Additionally, HMRC does not apply tax or seek to cancel the ISA status for expatriates after they have left the UK, although no contributions or new applications are possible.  

Further, an ISA is by nature a Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID) product and can only be advised by qualified and registered investment advisers in, or outside, the UK and within the European Union and USA.  

Declare ISA income and growth

Any income or growth achieved from an ISA should be declared at the point of access to your local tax authority, but also, where required, on your annual wealth and tax declaration. An ISA is effectively a General Investment Account (GIA). It has no tax benefits outside the UK and is not classified as pension income or retirement earnings. 

Whilst individual shares within an ISA can be sold and bought, and there can be a transfer between ISA providers, ALL gains and income are subject to declaration and assessment of tax in the country of client residence and is likely to be taxable in most cases. Most tax advisers would advise a client to treat an ISA the same as a GIA account.


If you, as the client, live in the EU and hold an ISA, then the income and gains you receive should be declared and assessed for tax where you live. If you then transfer your ISA to a new provider and move part or all to cash, then the gains from the investments need to be declared in your EU country of residence because the ISA wrapper is not recognised outside the UK and you may have a tax bill upon transfer. This would be the same in the US and many other countries where you may also have annually reportable tax requirements.  

As an expatriate, what RED flags should you be aware of?

Some advisers do not understand what an ISA is. Tax advisers overseas have found IDD advisers (this is a firm with an insurance licence) not only giving incorrect advice about ISA transfers being “tax-free” but actually operating outside their legal and regulatory status. Also, IDD advisers appointing another MiFID firm cannot give investment advice, as the other MiFID firm must give the advice directly to the client.  

We have seen advisers and product promoters writing that clients can retain their “tax-free” ISA and transfer it without implications often as in-specie transfers. As far as we are aware, an in-specie transfer of funds from one ISA to a new ISA is not available without the funds being sold down to cash before transfer. This could potentially lead to significant gains being realised that could be open to a tax charge in the new country of residence that the investor may not be expecting. This is likely to lead to potential tax penalties but in the worst case, fines and an investigation. 

 Image by pressfoto on Freepik

Aisa International has produced an informative white paper for UK expats, regarding their ISAs. Please click below to open it.

The views expressed in this article are not to be construed as personal advice. Therefore, you should contact a qualified, and ideally, regulated adviser in order to obtain up-to-date personal advice with regard to your own personal circumstances. Consequently, if you do not, then you are acting under your own authority and deemed “execution only”. The author does not accept any liability for people acting without personalised advice, who base a decision on views expressed in this generic article. Importantly, where this article is dated then it is based on legislation as of the date. Legislation changes but articles are rarely updated, although sometimes a new article is written; so, please check for later articles or changes in legislation on official government websites, as this article should not be relied on in isolation.

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Post written by:

James Pearcy-Caldwell

James founded and runs Aisa with an emphasis on a pro-client and transparent approach. He is always looking for the most suitable solution for the benefit of the client. He has been in the field of investment advice since 1998, and therefore fully understands the necessity of open communication and honesty. James is certified in many financial areas in several countries and also holds the most prestigious European certificate in investment planning EFP (European Financial Planner).

Aisa International is the only financial advice service company specialising in advice for expats that is regulated as a Securities Trader in the Czech Republic, USA, and UK.