Your entitlement to the basic State Pension and certain bereavement benefits could be affected if there are gaps in your National Insurance contributions record. You may want to consider filling in the gaps by paying voluntary National Insurance contributions. Whether it will make sense for you to do so will depend on a number of factors.
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The amount of basic State Pension (and certain bereavement benefits) you're entitled to is based on your National Insurance contributions record over your working life from age 16 until State Pension age. This record is made up from National Insurance contributions paid and/or credited to you in each tax year. A minimum amount of contributions and/or credits is required to make each year count as a 'qualifying year' towards your overall contributions record.
There could be gaps in your National Insurance contributions record for various reasons. For example, you may have been:
This depends on when you reach State Pension age. If this is on or after 6 April 2010 you'll need fewer qualifying years than previously. Also, the number of qualifying years needed for a full basic State Pension for men and women is the same, whereas previously they were different. See the table below.
If you reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2010 you may be able to get National Insurance credits for parents and carers for times when you don't work or your earnings are too low to count towards a qualifying year because you have caring responsibilities.
If you reached State Pension age before 6 April 2010 the number of qualifying years you need for a full basic State Pension can be reduced if you were entitled to Home Responsibilities Protection.
|Number of qualifying years||Men||Women|
|If you reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2010||30||30|
|If you reached State Pension age before 6 April 2010||normally 44||normally 39|
The Government recently published proposal for simplifying the future State Pension. These proposals include an increase in the number of qualifying years you need for a full State Pension for those who reach State Pension on or after the changes are implemented on 6 April 2016.
If you don't have the full number of qualifying years at State Pension age the amount you'll receive will depend on the date you reached State Pension age and the number of qualifying years you've built up.
You can get an idea of how many years you have to date and how much State Pension you may have built up under current State Pension law by following the link below.
From 6 April 2010 the number of qualifying years needed are the same for men and women. You'll get 1/30th of the full basic State Pension for each qualifying year you have. In practice this means that any number of qualifying years will give you entitlement to at least some basic State Pension.
So if, for example, you had ten qualifying years you would be entitled to 10/30th of the full basic State Pension.
There are a number of ways you can find out:
You might receive a letter from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) telling you there is a gap in your record. These letters are generally sent out between September and January each year. The letter isn't a bill - but it will tell you how much you can pay if you want to fill the gaps and how you can pay if you opt to do so.
You can check whether you're likely to have a gap in your National Insurance contributions record by requesting information about your State Pension entitlement from The Future Pension Centre at The Pension Service.
You can also ask HMRC for a statement of your National Insurance account. It will tell you how much, if anything, your shortfall is, whether you are able to make up that shortfall, and how you can pay if you wish to do so.
If you've lived abroad you can ask the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - The Pension Service to check your record for any shortfall, they can also provide you with information about your State Pension entitlement under current State Pension law - follow the link below.
It's up to you whether you make up any shortfall. However, remember that because the number of qualifying years you need for a full basic State Pension has reduced to 30 for people reaching State Pension age on or after 6 April 2010, you'll need to consider carefully whether you need to top up at all. At the same time, you'll need to bear in mind the effect on certain bereavement benefits of not topping up - see the next section on this for more information.
You should also consider the Government's proposals for simplifying the future State Pension. These will not affect anyone reaching State Pension age before the reforms are introduced.
HMRC recommends that you find out about your State Pension entitlement to help you decide - find out how to do this in the section above.
If you're unsure, the Citizens Advice Bureau or a number of other free organisations may be able to help you - or you could consult a financial adviser (but bear in mind they might charge you).
If you reach State Pension age on or after 6 April 2010 eligibility for bereavement benefits (payable, if someone dies, to their spouse or civil partner if under State Pension age, and based on the deceased's National Insurance contributions) is different to the eligibility for basic Stage Pension. For bereavement benefits, it remains at up to 39 qualifying years for a woman and up to 44 for a man. You may want to take this into account when deciding whether or not to top up your National Insurance contributions.
You should also consider the Government's proposals for simplifying the future State Pension as these include proposals to reform bereavement benefits. The changes will not affect anyone reaching State Pension age before the reforms are introduced.
You usually have to make up the shortfall within six years of the end of the tax year for which the National Insurance contributions are being paid. However there are extended time limits for some tax years and special rules if you reach State Pension age either between 6 April 2008 and 5 April 2015 or after 6 April 2017.
For more information on deadlines for paying voluntary National Insurance contributions read our guide 'When and how to pay voluntary National Insurance contributions' by following the link below.