What is a Lifetime ISA
The Lifetime Individual Savings Account (LISA) was announced in the 2016 budget and made available to the public from April 2017. LISAs give people a flexible savings product that can be used for buying a house or saving for retirement. If you plan on using a LISA to purchase a house, the product must have been open for at least a year. When using funds within a LISA to purchase a house, you do not release the funds yourself as you would incur the withdrawal charge. Instead, your solicitor you are using to purchase the house would request the funds which circumvents this charge. As a LISA can be used to buy a house, this product replaces the Help to Buy ISA that was previously available to first time buyers.
So, how does it work? Anyone between 18 and 39 years old is eligible and savings contributions receive a 25% bonus from the government on the total value up until the LISA owner reaches age 50. For example, if you contributed £100, you would be entitled to a £25 bonus from the government. The timing of when the bonus is received depends on how the LISA provider operates. The maximum that can be contributed to a LISA is £4,000 per tax year excluding the government bonus, effectively meaning you can increase the value of your LISA by £5,000 per year.
Your contributions into a LISA form part of your yearly entitlement to contribute £20,000 into an ISA. By using a combination of a LISA and a normal ISA, you can effectively increase your yearly input into an ISA to £21,000, courtesy of the government bonus. A LISA is also a tax efficient way of investing. Outside of a LISA product, anything that provides you with interest, such as a bank account, would form part of your taxable income, this is not the case for a LISA. This also applies if you were to receive dividends from an investment or make capital gains from selling an investment. These are also tax-free when held within a LISA.