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Don’t miss out on your state pension – check your record!

Published on 18 May 2021

In the past, the National Insurance Contributions Office (now part of HMRC) used to send out ‘deficiency notices’ telling people about gaps in their National Insurance contribution record. These notices gave you an opportunity to plug the gaps by paying additional contributions. But HMRC now expect you to check your record for yourself. Here’s how.

Illustration of a laptop computer with a document on the screen and a tick

Why should I check my National Insurance contributions record?

Your National insurance contributions record is important because your ability to claim certain state benefits can depend on it. One of the most significant state benefits which depends on your National Insurance record is the state pension.

To qualify for the state pension, you need to have built up a certain level of National Insurance contributions over your lifetime. This might be through paying National Insurance contributions or by being ‘credited’ with such contributions (which means you are treated as having paid them). A year for which you have either paid or been credited with sufficient contributions to make that year count towards your state pension is known as a ‘qualifying year’.

If you do not have enough qualifying years for a full state pension, you may be able to get a smaller amount. However, to get some state pension, you usually need at least 10 qualifying years – though contribution years in other countries can help you meet this condition. To get the full state pension, you need 35 qualifying years. See GOV.UK for more information on how the state pension is calculated.

If you have gaps in your National Insurance contributions record, you may be able to claim certain credits or pay voluntary contributions to fill in the gaps.

We recommend you regularly check your record so that you can identify and deal with any gaps as soon as they arise. This is because claims for credits can only be backdated for a certain period and paying backdated contributions to fill gaps will only usually count towards benefits entitlement if paid within six years of the end of the tax year in which the gap arose.

You should bear in mind that it may not always be in your interests to fill any gaps. We explain more below.

Our page in the tax basics section explains more about National Insurance generally.

How can I check my National Insurance contributions record?

We explain in our main guidance how to check your National Insurance contributions record. If you can check your record online, this is the quickest way to get the information.

What will I see in my personal tax account about my National Insurance record?

When you log in to your personal tax account, from the home page, scroll down to the bottom until you see the ‘Pensions’ heading.

Screenshot of State Pension Insurance contributions website page

This gives you the option to view your state pension forecast and/or your National Insurance record.

Under ‘View your National Insurance record’, you should see:

  • a note of how many years of full contributions you have built up;
  • how many years you have left to contribute up to the end of the tax year immediately before you reach state pension age;
  • information about any gaps in your record.

It should look something like this:

Screenshot of National Insurance record website page

If I have gaps in my contributions record, how do I decide whether to pay to fill them in?

You should first check whether you might be able to get National Insurance credits to fill in the gaps. We explain some particularly common situations below where credits might be available.

Otherwise, you will need to work out whether you think it is worth paying contributions to fill in gaps in your record to get more state pension. Remember that to get the full state pension, you need 35 qualifying years. For example, suppose you already have 27 qualifying years but you have another 12 years before you reach state pension age, and you are planning to work in a full-time job for at least the next 10 years. In this case, any gaps in your record might not matter, as (assuming everything goes to plan) you should still build up more than 35 qualifying years by the time you reach state pension age.

The ‘view your state pension forecast’ function in the personal tax account might help you decide as it will show you something like this:

Screenshot of State pension record website page

What common situations can mean I have gaps in my National Insurance contributions record?

If you stop working for a period, you might not pay enough contributions to build up one or more qualifying years for state pension purposes.

But sometimes you can get National Insurance credits even when you are not paying contributions.

It is necessary either:

  • to claim these credits, or
  • to make a claim to another state benefit which will mean you qualify for credits automatically.

Two types of credits that often go unclaimed are carer’s credit and adult specified childcare credit. As explained on our linked guidance, these require a claim for the credit itself – so if you look after someone, make sure you understand whether you can claim.

The other common problem that has come up in recent years is people not claiming child benefit because their partner would otherwise be liable to the high income child benefit charge. As we explain in our guidance, where one parent is not working or not earning very much, it is important to claim child benefit to get National Insurance credits. To avoid paying the high income child benefit charge, you can opt out of receiving child benefit payments while keeping the underlying claim in place.

There are time limits on backdating claims to state benefits and National Insurance credits, so it is important to act as soon as possible if you think you are missing out.

Where can I find help?

Citizens Advice also publish guidance on this issue and they may be able provide support based on your individual circumstances.

You can also get support from HMRC by phone or post.

Contact: Kelly Sizer (click here to Contact Us)
First published: 18/05/21


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