Voluntary National Insurance contributions: Gaps in your National Insurance record
Information about National Insurance contributions, qualifying for the State Pension, understanding your National Insurance record and whether you should fill gaps in your record.
Qualifying for State Pension
You qualify for State Pension based on the number of qualifying years you paid National Insurance contributions (NICs). You pay NICs from age 16 until you reach 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.
If you are a man born before 6 April 1951 or a woman born before 6 April 1953 go to the nidirect page about qualifying for basic State Pension for more information:
If you are a man born on or after 6 April 1951 or a woman born on or after 6 April 1953 go to the nidirect page about qualifying for new State Pension for more information:
National Insurance contributions
If you're employed you pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions based on your level of earnings. They’re automatically deducted by your employer.
If you're self-employed you pay Class 2 contributions at a flat weekly rate and Class 4 contributions annually, based on your level of taxable profits.
For more information about National Insurance or to pay your Class 2 National Insurance bill, visit the following pages on GOV.UK:
Getting credits towards your State Pension
You may not be able to pay National Insurance, for example if you are ill or caring for someone. The government may give you credits so you can continue building up State Pension entitlement. Find out who can get National Insurance credits, and whether you need to take action.
Gaps in your National Insurance record
You may get gaps in your record if you do not pay National Insurance or do not get National Insurance credits. This could be because you were:
- employed but had low earnings
- unemployed and were not claiming benefit
- self-employed but did not pay contributions because of small profits
- living or working outside the UK
Gaps can mean you will not have enough years of National Insurance contributions to either:
- get the full State Pension (sometimes called ‘qualifying years’)
- qualify for some benefits
You may be able to pay voluntary contributions to fill any gaps if you’re eligible.
Check your records for gaps
Check your National Insurance record to find out:
- if you have any gaps
- if you’re eligible to pay voluntary contributions
- how much it will cost
You may also be eligible for National Insurance credits if you claim benefits because you cannot work, are unemployed or caring for someone full time.
Contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) if you think your National Insurance record is wrong.
Decide if you want to pay voluntary contributions
Voluntary contributions do not always increase your State Pension.
If you are below State Pension age contact the Future Pension Centre to find out if you will benefit from voluntary contributions.
If you have reached State Pension age, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre to find out if you will benefit from voluntary contributions
You may also want to get financial advice before you decide to make voluntary contributions
Why you might want to pay voluntary contributions
You may want to pay voluntary contributions because:
- you’re close to State Pension age and do not have enough qualifying years to get the full State Pension
- you know you will not be able to get the qualifying years you need to get the full State Pension during your working life
- you’re self-employed, file Self Assessment tax returns and do not have to pay Class 2 contributions because you have low profits
- you live outside the UK, but you want to qualify for some benefits
Self-employed people with specific jobs
Some people do not pay Class 2 contributions through Self Assessment, but may want to pay voluntary contributions. These are:
- examiners, moderators, invigilators and people who set exam questions
- people who run businesses involving land or property
- ministers of religion who do not receive a salary or stipend
- people who make investments for themselves or others - but not as a business and without getting a fee or commission
You must be eligible to pay voluntary National Insurance contributions for the time that the contributions cover.
- Eligibility to pay Voluntary National Insurance
The rates for the current tax year can be found on the following GOV.UK page:
- Rates for paying Voluntary National Insurance
How and when to pay
Find out how to:
If you’re living abroad, you can read leaflet NI38 and fill in form CF83 at the end of the leaflet. Send it back to HMRC using the address on the form.
You can usually pay voluntary contributions for the past 6 years. The deadline is 5 April each year.
You have until 5 April 2022 to make up for gaps for the tax year 2015 to 2016.
You can sometimes pay for gaps from more than 6 years ago, depending on your age.
You’re a man born after 5 April 1951 or a woman born after 5 April 1953
You have until 5 April 2023 to pay voluntary contributions to make up for gaps between April 2006 and April 2016 if you’re eligible.
Making up a National Insurance Contributions (NIC) shortfall
It's up to you whether you make up any shortfall. 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, Advice NI or other free advice organisations may be able to help you. If you speak to a financial adviser, they might charge you for their advice