<p class="subtitle">The government recently announced another deadline extension for filling gaps in your National Insurance (NI) record. Until 5 April 2025, you may be able to fill gaps in your NI record from as far back as 2006 (the deadline for this was previously 31 July 2023). Filling gaps could potentially boost your State Pension by thousands of pounds, so here are some things to know.
The new State Pension was introduced on 6 April 2016. Men born on or after 6 April 1951 and women born on or after 6 April 1953 can claim the new State Pension when they reach State Pension age. The State Pension age is currently 66, but it’s rising to 67 by 2028.
Under normal rules, you can only fill gaps in your NI record from the last six years. But if you reached or will reach State Pension age after 6 April 2016, you currently have the chance to plug gaps in your NI record going back to 2006.
Checking for and filling gaps in your NI record could be very worthwhile. If you want to fill gaps dating as far back as 2006, keep in mind that you'll lose this opportunity after 5 April 2025.
Why should I pay attention to my NI record?
Whether you’ll get the State Pension and how much you’ll get depends on the number of ‘qualifying years’ on your NI record. A qualifying year is a tax year in which at least one of these scenarios was relevant to you:
- You were working and therefore paying NI contributions
- You were receiving NI credits
- You were paying voluntary NI contributions (sometimes referred to as ‘buying National Insurance years’)
To get any State Pension, you normally need ten qualifying years. You usually need 35 to get the full State Pension, but this could be different based on your situation (for example, if you were ever contracted out of the Additional State Pension).
Years or partial years in which you didn’t pay NI contributions (voluntary or otherwise) or receive NI credits can result in a gap on your record.
Gaps can occur for many reasons – for example, if you moved abroad, or were unemployed and not claiming benefits.
You can plug gaps by paying voluntary NI contributions. These are normally ‘class 3’ contributions. They could be ‘class 2’ if you’re living and working abroad, or if you’re self-employed. Visit the government’s website for more information on which class applies to you.
You can still fill gaps if you’re already receiving the State Pension.
How do I check if I have gaps in my record?
Have a look at your State Pension forecast. If you’re not at State Pension age, this can help you see whether you’re predicted to get the full State Pension amount. This is currently £203.85 a week. If you find you’re not expected to get the full amount, it could be worth looking into this as soon as possible.
Check your National Insurance record online. This’ll show your years of full contributions, as well as years that aren’t full - i.e. that are classed as gaps.
How much do voluntary NI contributions cost?
The government has confirmed that all relevant voluntary National Insurance contributions payments will be accepted at the rates applicable in 2022 to 2023 until 5 April 2025.
Class 3 voluntary NI contributions for the 2022/23 tax year cost £824.20 for a full year, and £15.85 for a week.
Rates may be different for self-employed people.
Is it worth paying voluntary NI contributions?
Based on the 2022/23 rates, buying a full National Insurance year could boost your State Pension by £275.08 a year. If you start claiming at 66 and live for another 20 years, you’ll have topped up your State Pension by around £5,500. This could make a massive different to your future.
If you’ve bought a full year, keep in mind it’ll take roughly three years to break even after you start claiming.
Let’s say you weren’t previously predicted to get the full State Pension but you then make enough voluntary NI contributions to receive this amount. In this case, you could potentially be tens of thousands of pounds better off in your retirement (depending on how long you claim the State Pension for).
Although paying voluntary NI contributions can be extremely valuable, whether it’s right for you will depend on your circumstances. It’s worth seeing if you can fill any gaps for free with NI credits. Claims for these can often be backdated many years. You could be eligible for a range of reasons - for example, if you’ve spent time caring for someone. You can visit the government’s website to see if you might be eligible for NI credits.
If you still have gaps, making voluntary NI contributions could be the way to go. The closer you are to State Pension age, the more sense it makes to try to increase your State Pension. After all, voluntary NI contributions could be the only way to give your State Pension a final boost if you’re leaving work or already retired. According to Money Saving Expert, it could be extremely important for those aged around 45-70 to see if they’d benefit from paying voluntary NI contributions.
If you’re younger than this, you could still have lots of time to add qualifying years to your NI record. Many younger people will be able to do this by working. So it might not be as important to fill gaps now. But if you think you’ll definitely have gaps that could limit your future State Pension amount (if you’re moving abroad, for example) it may be worth checking.
How do I pay voluntary NI contributions?
It’s very important to consider your own situation, as there could be many reasons why voluntary NI contributions actually wouldn’t suit your circumstances.
If you’re under State Pension age and you’re wondering about boosting your State Pension, contact the Future Pension Centre. If you’ve reached State Pension age already, get in touch with the Pension Service. These services can help you understand if you’d actually benefit from voluntary NI contributions.
You may even wish to get some financial advice too. If you don’t already have a financial adviser, you could find one at unbiased.co.uk.
If you’ve decided to go ahead with making voluntary NI contributions, you can contact the government for a reference number to use. You can then pay in various ways - such as online or at a bank.
This is a big decision to make. Checking your NI record and contacting the relevant people before the April 2025 deadline could potentially mean you’re thousands of pounds better off in future.
The information here is based on our understanding in June 2023 and shouldn’t be taken as financial advice.
Standard Life accepts no responsibility for information on external websites. These are provided for general information.
Laws and tax rules may change in the future and your own personal circumstances, including where you live in the UK, will have an impact on tax.