Lifetime ISA withdrawal charges more than triple during lockdown

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Lifetime ISA withdrawal charges more than triple during lockdown

Lifetime ISA withdrawal charges have than trebled during lockdown, according to new data gathered by wealth manager, Quilter.

Quilter research shows that Lifetime ISA (LISA) early withdrawal charges have more than tripled in a year to £33m in the 2020/21 tax year compared to £10m in 2019/20.

A Freedom of Information request shows that over the previous three tax years, a total of £48m has been levied against LISA holders for early withdrawals.

"Personal and financial crises will still happen each day and the 25% LISA withdrawal charge penalises savers who simply can't predict their financial future," Rachael Griffin, financial planning expert at Quilter

In 2018/19 and 2019/20 the withdrawal charges were set at 25% before they were dropped to 20% from 6 March 2020 to 5 April 2021 to help people impacted by the pandemic to access funds. However, the 25% charge is now back in place, Quilter points.

Stark figures

Rachael Griffin, pictured above, financial planning expert at Quilter, said: "These stark figures illustrate how many people needed to raid their savings to cope with the financial strain brought on them by the pandemic. Clearly, reducing the withdrawal charge to 20% and thus ensuring savers weren't unfairly penalised during this difficult time was sensible.

However, these figures also reveal that the Lifetime ISA has some significant flaws in its design."

The usual 25% withdrawal penalty was designed to disincentivise people from using a LISA for a purpose other than buying a first home or for retirement. The temporary reduction of withdrawal charges to 20% meant account holders would only have to pay back the 25% government bonus they received, meaning effectively there is no exit fee.

Given there were withdrawal charges of £33m in 2020/21 it implies that the total amount withdrawn from LISAs was around £165m.

The most recent available government ISA statistics show that when LISAs were introduced in 2017/18 £486m was subscribed to the product and £604m in 2018/19.

Financial Year

Total Charge

Withdrawal Charge

2018/19

£5,000,000

25%

2019/20

£10,000,000

25%

2020/21

£33,000,000

20%

 

"The pandemic has shown the nation that financial strains can be just around the corner for almost everyone. The government should realise that while we are hopefully not going to experience another event like the Covid crisis, other personal and financial crises will still happen each day and the 25% LISA withdrawal charge penalises savers who simply can't predict their financial future," Griffin added.

"The products are meant to be a hybrid between a retirement savings vehicle and an ISA product for first time buyers. Unfortunately, while the product strives for the best of both worlds it falls short. Lifetime ISAs are neither an ISA, with the flexibility to withdraw money at any time, or a pension, which has generous tax relief but requires savers to lock-up their money to at least age 55.

"They were a muddled idea to start with and the government should carefully consider their place in the long-term future of the UK's savings system."

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Gary Robinson

Commercial Director, Head of Video at International Investment.