In simple terms, if you pay or are deemed to pay enough years National Insurance Contributions (NIC) you will get a full state pension. If you are short some years you will get less state pension. Up until the 5th April 2023 you can make any year back to 2006 count for NIC by paying extra NIC now. This is where simplicity ends. The following post is an outline explanation of what it’s worth to you by paying the extra NIC, what it will cost, whether you are eligible and how to pay it.
- If you are a man born after 5th April 1951 or a woman born after 5th April 1953 you can pay extra NIC to include years not counted, as far back as 2006, to increase the years counted for State Pension.
- The ability to do this stops on 5th April 2023.
- If you need extra years, depending on circumstances, you will either pay £160 or £825 per extra year’s contributions, to gain £276 extra pension for each year you receive State Pension.
- Set up a Personal Tax Account to check if you are likely to have 35 years contributions without doing anything further.
- There are many ways of being counted as having contributed in addition to simply paying enough NIC, so this will need worked out and check HMRC have correct records.
- Phone NIC Enquiries to get an 18 digit reference code, and then pay HMRC any voluntary contributions being made before 5th April 2023.
In More Detail
The government brought in major changes to the pension system in 2016. As part of the transitional arrangements to ease in the new rules it has allowed people to go back over past years, as far back as 2006, and voluntarily pay NIC for any years that they are not covered for pension contributions in other ways. This ability to go back to 2006 will end on 5th April 2023.
- The HMRC Guidance Manual entry dealing with this is NIM72270.
- The Legislation dealing with the Class 2 (£160 per year) Voluntary contributions is Para 61B of The Social Security (Contributions) Regulations 2001.
- The Legislation dealing with the Class 3 (£825 per year) Voluntary contributions is Para 50C of The Social Security (Contributions) Regulations 2001.
There are 2 main state pension systems, pre & post 2016 systems, and various stages in between with different rules for men & women and for different ages and depending on what you were doing when you were not earning and whether you ever “Contracted Out” for NIC purposes at any time in the past. Because of this, the safe advice is for everybody to set up a Personal Tax Account and check how many years you have that count towards Pension Contributions and then decide if you need to do anything further. The remainder of this guide assumes that not everybody wants to do this and so aims to help you decide how important this might be to you and whether you want to do anything further about this issue.
What is the deadline?
5th April 2023, to go back to 2006. After this you can still go back 6 years, but potentially miss out on up to 11 years.
As some of the steps outlined below could take weeks if not already started you would really need to start the process ASAP to meet the 5th April 2023 deadline.
Is this for you?
If you are a Woman born after 5th April 1953 or a Man born after 5th April 1951 then you are eligible to go back to 2006. There is no minimum age but you had to be working age to pay NIC and the younger you are the more likely it is you will have time to make enough years contributions otherwise, so it becomes less certain that you will gain from making voluntary contributions. Most commentary on this states that it will be most useful for you if you are over 45, but that will depend on your circumstances.
How many years do you need to get a full state pension?
Short answer is that it depends on your circumstances. In general though, and with come caveats, the following chart applies to most people.
|Women born before 6th April 1950
|39 years contributions
|Women born between 6th Apr 1950 – 5th Apr 1953
|30 years contributions
|Women born after 5th April 1953
|35 years contributions
|Men born before 6th April 1945
|44 years contributions
|Men born between 6th April 1945 – 5th April 1951
|30 years contributions
|Men born after 5th April 1951
|35 years contributions
As the upcoming deadline only relates to the 35 years scenario we deal with this in the explanations below.
What is an extra year’s NIC contributions worth to you?
If you get to pension age with more than 35 years qualifying as having contributions then an extra year on top of that is worth nothing to you and you would be wasting your money paying any voluntary contributions.
If you get to pension age with less than 35 years qualifying then each extra year should be worth the following to you.
- The standard full state pension is, at the time of writing, £185.15 per week.
- Under the new pension scheme, if less than 35 years qualify for contributions then your pension will be £185.15 ÷ 35 x (number of years contributions).
- Therefore each extra year is worth £185.15 ÷ 35 = £5.29/week or £276 per year.
- According to the ONS the average 66 year old woman can expect to receive 21 years pension and the average 66 year old man can expect to receive 19 years pension. (These aren’t exact pension ages but an average for practical purposes.)
- Using these calculations an extra years pension contribution is worth:
- £5,796 over the pension lifetime of a woman
- £5,244 over the pension lifetime of a man
How much will a year’s contribution cost me?
- If you are self-employed and eligible to pay class 2 NIC then it will cost approx. £160 per year.
- If you are not eligible to pay class 2 NIC then you will have to pay the normal voluntary class 3 NIC. This will cost approx. £825 per year. Much more expensive, but still worth it in many cases if you can afford to pay it.
- Partial years shortfalls can be made up on a week by week basis.
How does a year count as a qualifying year for Pension NIC contributions?
The obvious answer is any year where you have paid enough employed or self-employed NIC contributions to meet the minimum contributions necessary to qualify. There are other allowances that complicate this so an attempt at a full list is below:
- Paying enough class 1 or 2 or 3 NIC to qualify in a year.
- Employed and earning at least £6,396 a year
- Self-employed with profits of at least £6,725 a year (‘small profits threshold’)
- Claiming universal credit
- On jobseeker’s allowance and not in education/working for 16 hours or more every week
- On maternity allowance
- On income support and providing ‘regular and substantial care’
- In a couple and both getting working tax credits (only one of you will get NI credits)
- On carer’s allowance
- A parent registered for child benefit for a child under 12
- On employment and support allowance, or ‘un-employability supplement’ or allowance
- Over 18 and Jobcentre Plus sent you on a Government-approved training course lasting up to a year
Not all of the above will be automatically on your record so the first step would be to consider if you need to get HMRC to amend your record to account for this.
- If your State Pension is likely to be your only income in retirement then, under current rules, Pension Credits will top-up any shortfall in pension to almost the same level as a full pension. In this scenario paying extra contributions would be wasted as, overall, nothing extra would be gained.
- If your state pension plus any other source of income after state pension age, such as farm profits, business profits, employment income, rental income, private pension income, dividend income or bank interest etc, take your annual income to over £9,500 then you will not be entitled to Pension Credit and you would gain from having extra NIC contributing years.
We assume that the rate of State Pension increase will keep up with inflation in these calculations. If it fell significantly behind inflation rates then the benefit of paying NIC now to obtain a better pension in 20 – 30 years’ time would not be as great.
How do I find out if I am likely to have less than 35 contributing years?
There is some element of guesswork involved, more so the younger you are, as you will have to consider how likely it is that you will have enough future years counted as contributing years.
The more definitive part of the calculation is working out how many contributing years you have already clocked up.
You can contact HMRC National Insurance General Enquiries in several methods outlined in the link here, but the easiest way is to use your Personal Tax Account to look up the years that qualify. If you don’t already have a Personal Tax Account you can set up one with HMRC. Their guide to setting it up is here. Please contact us if you need help with this.
What do I do after I have discovered I am likely to have less than 35 contributing years?
Your personal tax account will tell you how much it thinks you need to pay to catch up with missing years since 2006. If this matches what you were expecting then you can just pay this amount.
In some cases the HMRC calculated amount seems to assume the £825 per year Class 3 amount when the taxpayer was self-employed and entitled to the Class 2 rate of £160 per year. If you think you were entitled to the lower rate and haven’t been quoted this amount it is worth looking into this further.
- You then need to Phone National Insurance General Enquiries with your Tax Reference and National Insurance details to get an 18 digit reference number to enable you to make a payment.
- You can then pay HMRC. The simplest & quickest way is to pay online using the 18 digit tax reference, but you can pay by bank transfer or post etc if you wish. If you are eligible you would pay the Class 2 rate or if not it would have to be the Class 3 rates.
- After all is paid you should confirm with HMRC that the years have been paid. The easiest way to do this is via the Personal Tax Account again. HMRC advise that it could take 2 months to update this so this is unlikely to be able to be confirmed before 5th April 2023, but confirming as early as possible should make it easier to correct.
If you need any help with any of the steps above please contact us.