Do you live and pay tax in Sweden?
Do you want to reduce your taxable income?
Then this article can hopefully help you understand the Swedish Investingsparkskonto (ISK) Account.
What is the Swedish ISK account?
The Swedish Investingsparkskonto (InvestingSparksKonto = Investment Savings Account) account is a flat taxed investment account that was released by the Swedish Government in 2012. The idea was to create a more streamlined approach to managing financial securities, such as shares.
Unlike other traditional share trading accounts, no capital gains are taxed through an ISK account. Instead of capital gains, investors are charged a yearly standardised tax. As a result, the buying or selling of shares does not need to be recorded or reported to the tax authority (Skatteverket).
Who can open an (ISK) Investment Savings Account?
Only individuals (not companies) who have a Swedish personnummer (Social security number) are eligible to open an ISK Account. Ownership is individual, so one cannot have multiple people on the same account. There is no age limit on the account, so it can make a great investment strategy for children.
Most banks throughout Sweden are able to set up an ISK account. Some of these will have their own restrictions on what can be purchased, but generally, they all include funds and shares. For my ISK account, I use AVANZA, which is the largest stockbroker in Sweden. You can see some of my returns here.
The assets within an ISK account can be moved either within (i.e from normal account to ISK account), or between banks. An ISK account cannot be transferred
How is the Standardised ISK Tax calculated?
Tax is calculated annually based on each quarter in the month. At each quarter, the value of the assets, deposits and transfers of securities will be added up and then multiplied by the government loan rate (for the previous year) plus one percentage point. That value will then be taxed at 30%.
It sounds a bit confusing, but let’s break it down.
1. Get the total value of your ISK account
Tax is calculated on the amount in the account at the beginning of each quarter (i.e. January, April, July, October). This amount includes both the invested portion in shares and also the amount of free cash that’s sitting in the ISK account.
2. Determine the Capital base
This is worked out to be one-quarter of the total account value plus all the deposits of the year.
3. Find the Government Loan Rate (the standard income)
First, you must find the Government loan rate for the previous year. The Government Borrowing Rate can be found on the Riksgälden (Swedish National Debt Office) here
Once you have taken the Government loan rate from November of the previous year, you need to add 1 percentage point to determine the standard income. The average for the last 7 years has been 1.47%.
4. Calculate Yearly Tax Rate
The last step is to calculate the above numbers including the standard income rate, then multiply these by 30%.
Now you should have your answer. If it’s still a bit confusing, I have added an example with numbers below.
Swedish ISK Tax Example
Let’s run through an example with real numbers, to help you determine the tax payments on your ISK account.
Let’s say that this is your Account Summary for the Year:
- In the first quarter, you started with 18,000 kr. You added 1,000 kr, and the value of your portfolio went up 2,000 kr
- In the second quarter, you now started with a value of 21,000 (18,000 + 1,000 + 2,000). Your portfolio went up in value by 800 kr.
- In the third quarter, you started with 21,800 (21,000 + 800), added 2,000 and the value of your portfolio went up by 1,200 kr
- In the final quarter of the year, you started with 25,000 kr (21,800 + 2,000 + 1,200), added 1,000 kr and your portfolio didn’t grow.
This is how the above scenario would look:
|Quarter||Initial Value (for quarter)||Deposits / Withdrawals||Change in Value||Total (end of quarter)|
|Jan-01||18,000 kr||1,000 kr||2,000 kr||21,000 kr|
|Apr-01||21,000 kr||0 kr||800 kr||21,800 kr|
|Jul-01||21,800 kr||2,000 kr||1,200 kr||25,000 kr|
|Oct-01||25,000 kr||1,000 kr||0 kr||26,000 kr|
Now lets go through the steps mentioned earlier.
1. Get the total value of your ISK account – Tax is calculated on the amount in the account at the beginning of each quarter (i.e. January, April, July, October).
The total value for the ISK account above would be 85,800 kr
Total Value = (18,000 + 21,000 + 21,800 + 25,000) = 85,800 kr
2. Determine the Capital base – This is worked out to be one-quarter of the total account value, plus all the deposits of the year.
All of the deposits of the year = 4,000 kr (1,000 + 0 + 2,000 + 1,000)
- Capital base = (Total value + Total Deposits) / 4
- Capital base = (85,800 + 4,000) / 4
- Capital base = 22,450 kr
3. Find the Government Loan Rate (the standard income) – Find the Government loan rate for the previous year. Add 1 percentage point and then multiply that with the Capital Base to determine the standard income.
If the Government borrowing rate was 0.49% we add 1% on top of that. Now the rate is 1.49%.
Now we can determine the Standard Income.
- Standard Income = Capital base x 1.49%
- Standard Income = 22,450 x 1.49%
- Standard Income = 334.51 kr
4. Calculate Yearly Tax Rate – Calculate taxation on the standard income rate (Final Tax)
- Flat rate tax = Standard Income x 30% (30% is the tax rate)
- Flat rate tax = 334.51 kr * 30%
- Flat rate tax = 100.35 kr
In our example scenario, we would only need to pay 100.35 kr for taxation in that year.
Based on the final value 25,000 kr (average capital for the year), this means that we would only pay 0.40% in taxation.
It also means, that if you sold the whole portfolio for 26,000 (gain of 4,000kr), you would only need to pay 100.35 in tax. This is equivalent to 2.5%.
If this wasn’t in an ISK account (i.e. in a regular trading account), you would have to pay 30% taxation (or 1,200 kr)
- Account Value = 26,000
- Yearly Gain = 4,000
- If you were using a
- ISK account, taxation = 100 kr (2.5%)
- regular trading account, taxation = 1,200 kr (30%)
By using an ISK account, you would save 27.5% in taxation in the scenario above.
When Should I open a Swedish ISK account?
It may be beneficial to open an ISK account if you believe that your returns will be higher than the government mortgage rate plus 1% from the year before.
In 2019, the limit is 1.53%. In 2018, the limit was set at 1.51%.
The average standard income for the last 7 years has been 1.47%. All of the standard incomes for the previous years (according to Skatteverket) are listed below:
|Declaration 2019 (income year 2018)||1.49%|
|Declaration 2018 (income year 2017)||1.25%|
|Declaration 2017 (income year 2016)||1.40%|
|Declaration 2016 (income year 2015)||0.90%|
|Declaration 2015 (income year 2014)||2.09%|
|Declaration 2014 (income year 2013)||1.49%|
|Declaration 2013 (2012 income year)||1.65%|
Is a Swedish ISK account right for me?
Generally, you should choose a Swedish ISK account if you can earn a higher return during the year, than the government loan rate for the previous year plus 1 percentage point. All of the returns above this mark are “tax free” compared to using a standard trading account.
An ISK account can also be worthwhile if you do a lot of trading. Not only does it provide you with beneficial taxes on sales, but it also reduces the amount of recording that you need to do of your share trades (none through an ISK). This is a massive saving come tax time.
The benefits of a Swedish ISK account
ISK accounts are very popular in Sweden as they bring a lot of benefits for the investor:
- No Profit Tax – Investors can buy and sell as much as you want, without having to pay profit tax on sales
- Lower overall tax (generally less than 1% of the value)
- No setup costs
- Easier Tax Returns – Investors that solely use an ISK account don’t have to report any share buys or sells, its all reported to the Swedish Tax Department – Skatteverket
- Depending on who you create an ISK account with, you may be covered by a deposit guarantee up to 950,000SEK (~100K USD)
- Losses can be offset against standard income
- Retain the right to attend and vote at shareholder meetings.
The risks of a Swedish ISK account
However, with everything there is risk. ISK accounts are not different. Here are some of the risks or drawbacks:
- Tax costs regardless of profit or loss – Even if you don’t make money, you will have to pay tax.
- Unused money in an ISK account will also be taxed.
- Only limited to shares and funds.
- Only for private individuals, companies cannot own ISK accounts.
- Tax can be more complicated for individuals.
The Kapitalförsäkring (KF) Account
For those that want to look into a similar account, but for a business, the Kapitalförsäkring (KF) (translates to capital insurance) account should be investigated. The KF has many features similar to the ISK account, however there are a few key differences. The KF account is an insurance account, where in case of your death, the nominee would receive 1% more than you had invested.
The Differences Between an ISK and KF Account
The Capital Insurance account and the ISK have lots of similar features, both having a flat tax and not having to declare transactions. However, there are a few differences that you should take note of:
- In the ISK Account, you own the shares. In the KF account, the insurance company owns the shares.
- The voting rights are different between these accounts. The ISK allows you to have voting rights in general meetings, whereas he KF account does not.
- You can select a beneficiary on your KF account but not your ISK. If you were to die, the money from the ISK goes to your estate, but the KF will go to someone you have selected.
- The accounts are covered by different securities in case the platform or bank was to default. The cash in an ISK account is covered by a deposit guarantee and investor protection (~950,000 SEK from the government). The KF Account is covered under a preferential right (unlimited), with the insurance companies being required to keep appropriate debt coverage registers.
- A KF account can be better suited to international dividend paying shares. (see below)
Withholding Tax on KF or ISK Account
When you receive a dividend from foreign shares, you will pay withholding tax to the country from which you bought the shares (usually 15%). In the case of a normal trading account, you would pay 30%. 15% would go to the country of origin, and the other 15% would go to the Swedish Tax Agency.
With an ISK account, there is a limitation rule for how much of the foreign withholding tax you can claim back. The account holder cannot get back more withholding tax than the size of the account’s calculated standard income. Additionally with a ISK account, if you have a capital deficit in your tax year, you may not may not make a larger deduction than SEK 500. This results in the tax being at 15%.
With a KF account, the funds are in the insurance companies name. Therefore, it is the insurance company that applies for a deduction for the foreign withholding tax, which means that the holder is normally fully compensated for the withholding tax with a certain delay.
Generally speaking, this would mean tax paid on dividends is equal to 30% on an ordinary share account, 15% on ISK and 0% on KF. Obviously this depends on your own financial situation, and also on the countries that you are investing in.
The ISK account should be investigated further for those investing in shares and funds through Sweden. As long as you can earn more than ~1.50% per year, it can be more tax-efficient than a standard trading account. If you are receiving a lot of dividends from countries outside of Sweden, then you should also look deeper into a KF account.
Disclosure: I own both a ISK and KF account.