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Do you need to top up your National Insurance contributions?

Your entitlement to the basic State Pension and certain bereavement benefits could be affected if there are gaps in your National Insurance contributions record. You could pay voluntary National Insurance contributions to make up the shortfall.

Great Britain changed the law to introduce a new State Pension for men and women who will reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2016. The changes to State Pension are not yet law in Northern Ireland. If the Northern Ireland Assembly passes similar legislation, these changes will be made in Northern Ireland.

You should read about new State Pension if you’re:

National Insurance Contributions and your State Pension

The amount of basic State Pension (and certain bereavement benefits) you are entitled to is based on your National Insurance Contributions record over your working life from age 16 until State Pension age.

Your record comprises National Insurance Contributions paid or credited to you in each tax year. A minimum amount of contributions or credits is required for a year to count as a 'qualifying year' towards your overall contributions record.

How gaps in your National Insurance contributions record might occur

There could be gaps in your National Insurance contributions record for various reasons. For example, you may have been:

  • employed and had low earnings - below the 'lower earnings limit' of £111 per week (in 2014-2015 tax year)
  • unemployed and not claiming benefit
  • self-employed and you didn't have to pay Class 2 contributions because you applied for, and were issued with a Certificate of Small Earnings Exception
  • living abroad

You can find out more information about Class 2 national Insurance contributions by visiting the following GOV.UK page and can find out about additional State Pension top up at the following nidirect page.

Qualifying years to get full basic State Pension

This depends on when you reach State Pension age. The number of qualifying years needed for a full basic State Pension for men and women is the same.

  • men born before 6 April 1945 need 44 qualifying years
  • men born on or after 6 April 1945 need 30 qualifying years
  • women born before 6 April 1950 need 39 qualifying years
  • women born on or after 6 April 1950 need 30 qualifying years

Your basic State Pension if you don't have 30 qualifying years

You will get 1/30th of the full basic State Pension for each qualifying year you have. This means that any number of qualifying years will give you entitlement to at least some basic State Pension.

If you had 10 qualifying years you would be entitled to 10/30th of the full basic State Pension.

Use the online State Pension tool to calculate when you will State Pension age.

Your basic State Pension if you reach State Pension age between 6 April 2010 and 5 April 2016

Number of qualifying years Amount of basic State Pension you will receive (2014-2015 rates)
1 - 30 Between the minimum £3.77 a week and the maximum £113.10 a week

Your basic State Pension if your spouse or civil partner paid National Insurance contributions

If you are married or in a civil partnership, you might be entitled to some basic State Pension through the National Insurance record of:

  • your spouse or civil partner
  • your late or former spouse or civil partner

How do you know if you have a gap in your National Insurance Contributions record?

'Gap in your National Insurance record' letter

You might receive a letter from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) telling you there is a gap in your record. These letters are generally sent out between September and January each year. The letter isn't a demand - but it will tell you how much you can pay if you want to fill the gaps and how you can pay if you opt to do so.

You can check whether you're likely to have a gap in your National Insurance contributions record by requesting a State Pension statement from the Newcastle Pension Centre, Futures Group. Their office is in England.

Statement of your National Insurance account

You can also ask HMRC for a statement of your National Insurance account. It will tell you how much, if anything, your shortfall is, whether you are able to make up that shortfall, and how you can pay if you wish to do so.

If you live or have lived abroad

If you've lived abroad you can ask about any shortfall in your National Insurance record. You can also request a State Pension statement from the Newcastle Pension Centre, International Group. Their office is in England.

Deciding whether to make up a National Insurance Contributions (NIC) shortfall

It's up to you whether you make up any shortfall. You need 30 qualifying years for a full basic State Pension. You should consider carefully whether you need to top up at all. At the same time, you will need to bear in mind the number of qualifying years required to be eligible for certain bereavement benefits.

You should request a State Pension statement to see if there is any NIC shortfall and decide if you need to make up any gap in your contribution.

If you're unsure, the Citizens Advice Bureau or other free advice organisations may be able to help you. If you consult a financial adviser, they might charge you for their advice.

Deadlines for making up a National Insurance Contributions shortfall

You usually have to make up the shortfall within six years of the end of the tax year for which the contributions are being paid. However there are extended time limits for some tax years and special rules if you reach State Pension age on or before 5 April 2015.

For more information on deadlines for paying voluntary National Insurance contributions read HMRC's guide 'When and how to pay voluntary National Insurance contributions':

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