Freelancer in green jumper working at kitchen table | How do I pay voluntary National Insurance contributions?

How do I pay voluntary National Insurance contributions?

February 9, 2022
This article was updated 24th April 2023.
Paid by the UK workers over the age of 16 in the UK, National Insurance is a mandatory tax on earnings and self-employed profits, contributing towards certain state benefits that taxpayers can, over time, become eligible for.

While the majority of workers have their National Insurance contributions (NICs) either taken directly from their wage packets or, for self-employed people, paid through Self Assessment, there are some who make voluntary National Insurance contributions.

If you’re not sure why people might choose to make these voluntary contributions, this article is for you. Read on to find out why people might pay voluntary National Insurance contributions, what the rates for the 2023/24 tax year are, and how to find out if it’s all worth it.

Why might people pay voluntary National Insurance contributions?

As mentioned above, National Insurance is a tax on earnings and self-employed profits that contribute towards certain state benefits, such as your State Pension. However, before you can claim these benefits, you must make a certain number of contributions to be eligible to claim the full amount.Those who have missed making National Insurance contributions may not have enough ‘qualifying years’ — that is, the total number of years of making National Insurance contributions, which as of 2016 went from 30 years to 35 — to either get the full State Pension or to qualify for some state benefits.As a result, these taxpayers may want to plug the gaps in their National Insurance record to make themselves eligible for the available state benefits in their entirety.

Why might people have gaps in their National Insurance record?

People may miss making National Insurance contributions because they fall under one of the following categories:
    Employed but had low earningsUnemployed and not claiming benefitsSelf-employed but had low profitsLiving or working outside the UKMarried woman or widow who stopped paying reduced rates

How do I know if I need to pay voluntary National Insurance contributions?

Before you start voluntarily making payments, it’s a good idea to check if there are any major gaps in your National Insurance records that need filling.
To do this, you can request to see your National Insurance record on the website, where you can:

    See what you’ve paid up to the start of the current tax year (April 2023)If any gaps in contributions mean some years do not count towards your State PensionIf you can pay voluntary contributions to plug these gaps.
Before you request to see your National Insurance record, make sure you have your Government Gateway user ID and password close to hand. If you don’t have an account, you can create one to check your record.When signing in to check your National Insurance record, you’ll automatically activate your personal tax account, which you can use to check other HMRC records.In some instances, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) may send you a letter informing you that there is a gap in your National Insurance records, detailing both the amount to pay if you want to fill the gaps and how to do so.

When to make voluntary National Insurance contributions

While the decision to make voluntary National Insurance payments is discretionary, you might consider making voluntary contributions if one or more of the following is applicable to you:
    You’re close to State Pension age and do not have enough qualifying years to get the full State PensionYou know you’ll not be able to get the qualifying years you need to get the full State Pension during your working lifeYou’re self-employed and do not have to pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions because you have low profitsYou live outside the UK, but want to qualify for some benefits
Before making any contributions, it’s important to keep in mind that voluntary contributions do not necessarily increase your State Pensions.
To find out if making these payments would be beneficial to you, you can contact the Future Pension Centre or request a State Pension forecast online to see how much State Pension you could be entitled to.

If you’re self-employed and still not sure if you should make voluntary National Insurance contributions, you can get in touch with an Ember accountant for expert financial advice.

Am I eligible to pay voluntary National Insurance contributions?

Before you can start making voluntary payments, you’ll first need to check if HMRC will allow you to do so.You can usually pay voluntary contributions to cover up to the past 6 years, with the deadline being 5th April each year. For instance, you have up to 5th April 2024 to make up for gaps in the 2017/18 tax year, although in some circumstances you can go back further depending on your age.Even if you are looking to fill gaps within the past 6 years, you cannot pay voluntary contributions if:
    You’re eligible for National Insurance creditsYou’re a married woman or widow paying reduced rates

National Insurance credits

You may be eligible for National Insurance credits if you claim benefits because you cannot work due to illness, are unemployed or are caring for someone on a full-time basis.These credits automatically replace National Insurance contributions and fill the gaps in your National Insurance record that would be there under different circumstances, such as if you were unemployed but not claiming Universal Credit.Generally speaking, when you apply for benefits you automatically receive these credits, but in some cases you may need to apply for them.You do not need to take action if you are already claiming Carer’s Allowance, Child Benefit for a child under 12 or Income Support (and are regularly caring for someone).

How do I pay voluntary National Insurance contributions?

If you’re eligible to pay and are eager to do so, you can make your voluntary National Insurance contributions by direct debit, bank transfer or by cash or cheque at your local bank branch.The total amount owed is dependent on the rate set at the tax year in which the gap occurs. For the tax year 2023/24, the Class 2 and Class 3 National Insurance rates are as follows:
TypeWeekly amountAnnual equivalent
Class 2£3.45£179.40
Class 3£17.45£907.40
If you’re paying Class 2 contributions for the previous tax year, or Class 3 contributions for the previous 2 years, you’ll only need to pay the rates set for those tax years. However, if you were looking to plug gaps in any of the years prior up to the 6 year limit, each additional qualifying year would be an extra £5.13 a week (or £266.83 a year) in State Pension.