Is a UK ISA Taxable in the US? How is it Reported?

Is a UK ISA Taxable in the US? How is it Reported?

U.S. Taxation of UK ISA

U.S. Taxation of UK ISA: The U.S. Tax rules for matters involving international and offshore assets and investments cane be complicated. This is especially true for the UK ISA, because the ISA (Individual Savings Account) is a tax-free investment in the UK. Even though the US and UK have a DTA Tax Treaty, the rules can still be lopsided.

And, while the ISA is oftentimes a component to retirement planning, the ISA is not a per se pension account, so it does not receive the same treatment as pension.

In addition, the reporting rules are also complex, and may involve:

  • FBAR
  • Form 8938 (FATCA)
  • PFIC
  • Form 3520

For U.S. Persons who own an ISA in the UK (or any non-U.S. Country), the U.S. Tax ramifications and reporting requirements may be different than the foreign country.

We will briefly summarize the tax and reporting of a UK ISA.

U.S. Tax on ISA

Why are the tax rules complicated?

Because while the investment may grow tax-free in the foreign country, the U.S does not necessarily recognize the tax-free status.

And, since the U.S. taxes individuals on their worldwide income — the IRS rules can get fairly complex, for an otherwise not-so-complex UK investment vehicle.

Is the UK ISA Taxable?

An ISA is an individual Savings Account.

There are various different types of versions of ISAs, such as Cash, Stock and other types of investments (such as a Lifetime ISA which is used in anticipation of buying a first home, or retirement or Junior ISA for kids under 18).

As provided by Barclay’s:

“An ISA is an Individual Savings Account – it allows you to save or invest money in a tax-efficient way.

An ISA (individual savings account) is a tax-free savings or investment account that allows you to put your ISA allowance to work and maximize the potential returns you make on your money, by shielding it from income tax, tax on dividends and capital gains tax.

You need to bear in mind, though, that tax rules can change in future and that their effects on you will depend on your individual circumstances.

Because, since the ISA is not usually in a retirement account, it does not receive default exempt status during the growth phase.

How Much can I Invest in an ISA?

There are various limitations for investing, and each year a person gets a certain amount they can investment (usually around 20,000 GBP Per year) – and there are limitations as to how many different ISA funds you can contribute to each year.

How Is an ISA Taxed in the UK?

The ISA grows tax-free, so even if interest, dividends, or capital gains are accruing within the fund, you are not immediately taxed on the growth phase.

Does the U.S. Tax the Growth on an ISA?

Generally, the answer would be yes. It is an investment, and if income is being generated on the growth of the fund, and/or it is accruing interest, dividends, or capital gain distributions, it would not be exempt from U.S. Tax

ISA Reporting (FBAR, FATCA, PFIC, Foreign Trust)

Beyond the taxation rules for ISAs, there are also “reporting” Rules for ISA as well.


The FBAR is used to report “Foreign Financial Accounts.” This includes investments funds, and certain foreign life insurance policies.

The threshold requirements are relatively simple. On any day of the year, if you aggregated (totaled) the maximum balances of all of your foreign accounts, does the total amount exceed $10,000 (USD)?

If it does, then you most likely have to file the form. The most important thing to remember is you do not need to have more than $10,000 in each account; rather, it is an annual aggregate total of the maximum balances of all the accounts.

ISA Form 8938

This form is used to report “Specified Foreign Financial Assets.”

There are four main thresholds for individuals is as follows:.

  • Single or Filing Separate (in the U.S.): $50,000/$75,000
  • Married with a Joint Returns (In the U.S): $100,000/$150,000
  • Single or Filing Separate (Outside the U.S.): $200,000/$300,000
  • Married with a Joint Returns (Outside the U.S.): $400,000/$600,000

ISA Form 3520

Form 3520 is filed when a person receives a Gift, Inheritance or Trust Distribution from a foreign person, business or trust. There are three (3) main different thresholds:

  • Gift from a Foreign Person: More than $100,000.
  • Gift from a Foreign Business: More than $16,076.
  • Foreign Trust: Various threshold requirements involving foreign Trusts

ISA Form 5471

Form 5471 is filed in any year that you have ownership interest in a foreign corporation, and meet one of the threshold requirements for filling (Categories 1-5). These are general thresholds:

  • Category 1: U.S. shareholders of specified foreign corporations (SFCs) subject to the provisions of section 965.
  • Category 2: Officer or Director of a foreign corporation, with a U.S. Shareholder of at least 10% ownership.
  • Category 3: A person acquires stock (or additional stock) that bumps them up to 10% Shareholder.
  • Category 4: Control of a foreign corporation for at least 30 days during the accounting period.
  • Category 5: 10% ownership of a Controlled Foreign Corporation (CFC).

ISA Form 8621

Form 8621 requires a complex analysis, beyond the scope of this article. It is required by any person with a PFIC (Passive Foreign Investment Company).

The analysis gets infinitely more complicated if a person has excess distributions. The failure to file the return may result in the statute of limitations remaining open indefinitely.

*There are some exceptions, exclusions, and limitations to filing.

What if I am Out of Compliance?

If you are out of FBAR compliance, the penalties can be severe. Therefore, you may consider entering the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure/tax amnesty, before it is too late.

Golding & Golding: About Our International Tax Law Firm

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Contact our firm today for assistance.