National Insurance - the basics

You pay National Insurance contributions to build up your entitlement to certain state benefits, including the State Pension. The contributions you pay depend on how much you earn and whether you're employed or self-employed. You stop paying National Insurance contributions when you reach State Pension age.

On this page:

Who pays National Insurance?

You pay National Insurance contributions if you're an employee or self-employed and you're aged 16 and over, as long as your earnings are more than a certain level. If you're employed you stop paying National Insurance contributions as soon as you reach State Pension age. If you are self-employed, you stop paying Class 2 contributions as soon as you reach State Pension age and Class 4 contributions from the start of the tax year after the one in which you reach State Pension age.

There have been changes to the State Pension age from 6 April 2010.

The State Pension age for women born between 6 April 1950 and 5 December 1953 will gradually increase to 65. This is being phased in over an eight year period from April 2010 to November 2018.

The State Pension age for men and women born between 6 December 1953 and 5 April 1960 will gradually increase to 66. This will be phased in between November 2018 and September 2020 for people born before 6th October 1954.

The State Pension age for men and women born after 5 April 1960 will gradually increase to 67. This will be phased in between May 2026 and February 2028 for people born between 6th April 1960 to 5th March 1961.

Some people also pay voluntary National Insurance contributions. For example, you might choose to pay them if you:

  • aren't working and are not claiming state benefits
  • haven't paid enough National Insurance contributions in a year to count for the State Pension or other long term state benefits
  • live abroad and want to maintain your state benefits entitlement

Find out about to changes to the State Pension age (Opens new window)

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Your National Insurance number

Your National Insurance number is your own personal account number. The number makes sure that the National Insurance contributions and tax you pay are properly recorded on your account. It also acts as a reference number for the whole social security system.

Every National Insurance number is different. It's made up of letters and numbers like this:

QQ 12 34 56 A.

(Please note that this National Insurance number is just an example and should not be used as your own number).

Your National Insurance number never changes even if you go abroad, marry, register as a civil partner, change your name, etc.

Your entitlement to many state benefits depends on your National Insurance contribution record (see the section below 'State benefits that depend on National Insurance contributions').

If you don't have a National Insurance number, you can apply to get one.

Applying for a National Insurance number

Who uses your National Insurance number?

You will have to give your National Insurance number to:

  • HM Revenue & Customs
  • your employer
  • Department for Work and Pensions (which includes Jobcentre Plus and Pension, Disability and Carers Service), if you claim state benefits
  • your local council, if you claim Housing Benefit
  • the Student Loans Company, if you apply for a student loan

You also have to give your National Insurance number if you open an Individual Savings Account (ISA) - follow the first link below for more information.

It's very important you keep your number safe and don't give it to anyone who does not need it. This will help prevent identity fraud - follow the second link below to find out more about protecting your identity.

Saving and investing with ISAs

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State benefits that depend on National Insurance contributions

Your entitlement to certain state benefits and the amount you can get depends on your National Insurance contributions record. (In some cases it depends on your spouse or civil partner's contributions.) These benefits include:

  • State Pension
  • contribution-based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Bereavement Allowance
  • contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance.

You can find a full list of the state benefits that depend on your contributions in the guide 'National Insurance and state benefits'.

National Insurance and state benefits

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How much National Insurance you pay

The amount and type of National Insurance contributions you pay depend on whether you're employed or self-employed and how much you earn. The rates shown below are for the 2014-15 tax year.

If you're employed

If you're employed you pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions. The rates are:

  • if you earn more than £153 a week and up to £805 a week, you pay 12% of the amount you earn between £153 and £805
  • if you earn more than £805 a week, you also pay 2% of all your earnings over £805

You pay a lower rate if you're a member of your employer's contracted-out pension scheme.

Your contributions are deducted from your wages by your employer.

Read about tax and National Insurance if you're employed

National Insurance payments if you've contracted out of the State Second Pension

If you're self-employed

If you're self-employed you pay Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance contributions. The rates are:

  • Class 2 National Insurance contributions are paid at a flat rate of £2.75 a week
  • Class 4 National Insurance contributions are paid as a percentage of your annual taxable profits - 9% on profits between £7,956 and £41,865, and a further 2% on profits over that amount.

If your profits are expected to be less than £5,885 you may not have to pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions.

Your Class 2 National Insurance contributions payments are due on 31 January and 31 July, the same as a Self Assessment tax bill. You pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions either monthly or six monthly by Direct Debit - follow the first link below for more information about payment dates.

You pay Class 4 National Insurance contributions when you pay your Income Tax.

How to pay self-employed Class 2 National Insurance

Read about tax and National Insurance if you're self-employed

Voluntary National Insurance contributions

You can pay voluntary contributions (usually Class 3 National Insurance contributions) at a flat rate of £13.90 a week.

Class 3 voluntary contributions are paid either monthly by Direct Debit or by quarterly bill. But if you have gaps in your National Insurance contributions record you can make one-off payments of voluntary contributions to fill these.

Voluntary National Insurance contributions - find out more

Other National Insurance contributions rates

There are other rates that apply in certain cases. Examples of these are:

  • the married women's - and widows' - reduced rate
  • the special rate for share fishermen
  • the special rate for volunteer development workers

Married women, widows and reduced National Insurance contributions

Check all National Insurance contributions rates

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When you might get National Insurance credits

You can sometimes get National Insurance credits. These are available in certain circumstances to give you 'credit' to cover contributions you couldn't make because you weren't able to work. They can protect your entitlement to certain benefits including the State Pension.

National Insurance credits

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National Insurance and Income Tax

If you have to pay National Insurance you normally have to pay Income Tax too. Income Tax is a tax on your 'taxable income' over a certain amount. It's payable at different rates depending on your income. There are some allowances and reliefs available that can lower your Income Tax bill.

Find out more about Income Tax

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Checking your National Insurance contributions record

HMRC keeps records of your National Insurance contributions paid throughout your working life. Find out how to check your National Insurance record by following the link below.

Checking you National Insurance contributions record

If you are resident abroad or have been abroad and want to check your National Insurance record, contact the National Insurance Contributions Office - International Caseworker by following the link below.

National Insurance Contributions Office - International Caseworker

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More useful links

Do you need to top up your National Insurance contributions?

Working and paying tax

Read about coming to work in the UK

Read about tax and National Insurance when you leave school or college

Paying HMRC

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