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National Insurance and your State Pension statement

Your State Pension statement may be affected by National Insurance (NI) rules. Find out about rules for topping up your NI contributions, reduced rate NI and when you have to pay NI. If you need further help you can contact HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Paying National Insurance

Working

Even if you already have enough qualifying years to get a full basic State Pension, you have to pay National Insurance until you reach your State Pension Age if you:

  • work for an employer and your wages are above a certain level
  • are self-employed and you do not have a small-earnings exemption certificate

Paying voluntary NI contributions

If you are paying voluntary NI contributions you may decide to stop paying them if you already have enough qualifying years to get a full basic State Pension.

You need 30 years of National Insurance contributions to get a full basic State Pension when you retire.

You can pay voluntary contributions to fill or avoid gaps in your National Insurance record if you don’t have 30 years of contributions.

You may have gaps because:

  • you’re ill and not working and don’t get any benefits
  • you’re unemployed and don’t get any benefits
  • you live abroad and don’t have to pay National Insurance
  • you’re self employed, making a profit under £5,885 and don’t have to pay National Insurance

If you stop paying voluntary NI contributions, your widow, widower or surviving civil partner's bereavement benefits may be affected, if you die.

Bereavement benefit entitlement

You will need to have enough qualifying years in your working life to give your widow, widower or surviving civil partner full rate bereavement benefit.

To get bereavement benefits you need to pay 39 years of National Insurance contributions for women and 44 years for men.

This is different to the State Pension, where you only need 30 qualifying years to get the full rate of basic State Pension.

Reduced-rate National Insurance

In the past, married women (and some widows) could choose to either:

  • pay reduced-rate NI contributions as an employee
  • not pay Class 2 NI contributions when self-employed

Although this stopped in 1977, women who were already paying the reduced-rate NI could continue to do so.

Reduced–rate NI contributions do not count towards the State Pension. You can't normally get Home Responsibilities Protection for any period covered by reduced-rate NI contributions. Since April 2010 you may be able to get the credits for parents and carers that replaced Home Responsibilities Protection.

You will stop paying reduced–rate NI contributions if you:

  • get divorced or your marriage is annulled (officially cancelled)
  • stop being entitled to certain bereavement benefits
  • ask to stop paying reduced–rate NI contributions

You will also stop paying reduced–rate NI contributions if, for two tax years in a row, you:

  • did not earn enough to pay, or be treated as paying, NI contributions as an employee
  • were not self-employed

If you need advice about reduced-rate NI contributions, contact HMRC.

Time spent at university

You will not normally receive NI credits for any time spent at university.

In certain circumstances you may have been awarded National Insurance credits for the tax years during which you had your 16th, 17th and 18th birthdays. These are known as ‘starting credits’. New awards of starting credits ceased on 6 April 2010.

Time spent working outside the UK

Any period when you’re working outside the UK for a UK employer and continue to pay UK NI contributions will count towards your qualifying years.

Contributions you may have paid into another country’s social security system whilst working outside the UK don’t count towards your qualifying years. These contributions won’t have been used when working out your State Pension statement.

But your foreign social security contributions will be looked at when you claim your State Pension if you were working in either:

  • another European Economic Area country
  • a country with which the UK has a social security reciprocal agreement

For more information contact the International Pension Centre.

Topping up your State Pension

If your statement shows that you may not receive a full basic State Pension, you may be able to top up your State Pension. You can do this by making voluntary NI contributions. This may be useful if you have missed paying NI contributions, for example because you weren't working, or were outside the UK. Details will be included in your statement if this applies to you.

There are time limits for paying voluntary NI contributions. You can usually fill gaps in the previous six tax years.

Rules for voluntary Class 3 National Insurance contributions

Since 6 April 2009, some people paid additional voluntary Class 3 NI contributions. These may be paid in addition to any you may pay for the previous six tax years. You may be able to do this for up to six years from 6 April 1975, if you:

  • reach State Pension age between 6 April 2008 and 5 April 2015
  • already have 20 qualifying years (including years of Home Responsibilities Protection)

You cannot pay additional Class 3 NI contributions for any tax year if the whole year is covered by reduced-rate NI.

Further questions

If you have any further questions about your NI contributions or credits, contact HMRC.