Updated: June 24, 2019

How to Transfer An ISA Into a Pension

Want to transfer ISA funds into your pension? Find out all the pros and cons of doing this in our detailed guide.

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Tony Stevens

Author: Tony Stevens - Finance Expert

Updated: June 24, 2019

We get lots of enquiries from people who would like to know if it’s possible to transfer an ISA into their pension and why that might be beneficial.

To answer this and other related questions we’ve put together this article which covers:

Once you’ve read through the details below if you’d like to know more about how to transfer your ISA into a pension make an enquiry and we can arrange for an advisor we work with to get in touch. You can also find out more about general pension transfers.

Can I transfer an ISA into a pension?

Yes, it’s certainly possible. If you’re a UK resident and either a basic-rate or higher rate taxpayer, ISAs are a very attractive form of saving as any gain is free of both income and capital gains tax.

However, whilst ISAs are allowed to grow tax-free they do not offer tax relief on any contributions, which is such a key benefit for pension savings and why many people consider transferring their funds.

Can I transfer my cash ISA into a pension?

Yes, transferring your cash ISA to a pension is also possible. Cash ISAs would actually be the simplest type of ISA to transfer as they’re accessible immediately, whereas other forms of ISA – stocks and shares, innovative and lifetime – would require the sale of the underlying assets before a transfer could take place.

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Should I transfer my ISA into a pension?

Whilst there’s no doubt the tax-relief benefit is a very enticing reason to switch your ISA funds into a pension (as outlined below), you also need to consider whether or not you would need access to the funds before you plan to retire.

Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of transferring your ISA into a pension…


Tax-relief, as mentioned above, is a major factor for switching out of an ISA and into a pension. If you’re a basic-rate taxpayer this means the UK government will make an additional contribution of 20% to your pension fund on your behalf.

High-rate and additional rate taxpayers can claim an extra 20% and 25%, respectively, through their self-assessment tax returns.

As an example, if a basic-rate taxpayer transfers £10,000 from their ISA into a pension this amount would be classed as a net contribution meaning an additional £2,500 will be added to their pension fund. High-rate taxpayers can claim an extra £4,167 and additional taxpayers can claim an extra £5,681.

As you can see, pensions are a much more tax-efficient way to save for your retirement. The tax-relief alone can make a significant difference to your retirement fund as it would be unrealistic to expect the capital growth from an ISA to match this amount.

Other possible benefits of transferring your ISA funds into a pension are:

  • Inheritance Tax (IHT): Pension funds remain outside of your estate for IHT purposes whereas ISAs do not and could incur a 40% tax charge depending on who your beneficiaries are and the size of your estate upon your death.
  • Annual allowance: The total amount you can save into an ISA is £20,000 in the current tax year (2019/20). For a pension you can contribute up to a maximum of £40,000 or the equivalent of your annual salary (whichever is lower)

The main disadvantage of transferring your ISA into a pension is the lack of flexibility and access you then have to these funds.

With an ISA you can withdraw funds whenever you wish, without penalty. However, with a pension, the earliest you can begin withdrawing money would be from 55 years of age.

If you would prefer a savings plan that gives you full access to all of your funds at any time, which can be withdrawn free of income and capital gains tax, an ISA account would likely be the most suitable option.

Other possible drawbacks of transferring your ISA funds into a pension are:

  • Tax on withdrawal: A pension fund only allows the first 25% to be withdrawn tax-free at retirement. All other withdrawals are subject to income tax at your marginal rate. All ISA withdrawals are free of income and capital gains tax.
  • Investment risk: Funds transferred into a pension rise or fall based on the performance of the underlying assets. ISAs offer a cash option which would not expose your savings to stock market volatility.

Deciding to transfer your ISA into a pension depends a lot on your personal circumstances. If you’re still not sure, make an enquiry and we can ask an expert to get in touch and speak with you.

How do I transfer my ISA into a pension?

A transfer between an ISA and a pension is not a direct transaction in the same way as when one pension fund is transferred to another. An ISA first needs to be cashed-in and placed in a current account, if it’s a non-cash version, before it can be transferred from there into your pension fund as a lump sum contribution.

The first thing you need to do is to inform your provider that your ISA, if invested in assets other than cash, needs to be liquidated.

You can then complete your lump-sum pension contribution by finalising all the relevant paperwork with your scheme administrator or pension provider.

It’s worth noting that your ISA funds will likely be in a cash position for a number of days during this process and outside of any stock market activity during this period.

It’s usually worth speaking with an expert before starting this process. If you get in touch we can ask an advisor we work with to contact you directly.

Can I transfer my pension into an ISA?

When you reach normal retirement age (usually from 55 onwards), you have the option of withdrawing up to 25% of your pension fund tax-free. Once you’ve done this you’re free to invest these monies into an ISA if you wish.

If you’d like to know more about transferring pension funds into an ISA, including details on how and when this would be possible, have a look at our dedicated article.

Speak to a pensions expert about ISA transfers

There are quite a few advantages to transferring your ISA funds into a pension, particularly if you don’t need access to the funds until you reach retirement. However, you need to be sure that this course of action best suits your own personal circumstances.

Before you make any final decisions it’s really important you seek professional advice from someone who has experience in dealing with this area of financial planning.

If you have questions and want to speak to an expert for the right advice, call Online Money Advisor today on 0808 189 0463 or make an enquiry here.

The advisors we work with have a wealth of experience in areas such as this and deal with customers in your situation all the time.

Ask a quick question

We can help! We know everyone's circumstances are different, that's why we work with brokers who are experts in pensions. Ask us a question and we'll get the best expert to help.

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Tony Stevens

Tony Stevens

Finance Expert

About the author

Tony has worked in a vastly diverse array of areas in the pensions industry for over 20 years. Tony regularly writes for trade press, usually on topical and pensions pieces as well as acting as a judge at prestigious national events.

Tony is also a highly qualified Independent Financial Adviser in his own right. His mantra has always been “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst”, and believes that the biggest impact that an adviser can have on a client’s life journey is to take them on a journey from generally having little or no real idea of what their retirement will look like, to giving them the understanding of what their retirement looks like now, then helping them navigate a path to what they want their retirement to be.

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