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Voluntary national insurance contributions

Sometimes you don't have to pay national insurance contributions (NICs).  This might be because you're not working or you don't earn enough.  You may be able to pay voluntary NICs so that you can still claim certain state benefits, including the basic state pension

However, your entitlement to certain state benefits and the amount you can get depends on your NIC 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. 

The Government has announced its intention to reform the state pension system, by changing it into a single-tier pension for those retiring on or after April 2016. Under the proposed changes, the number of qualifying years required for a full pension will be raised from 30 to 35. There are special rules proposed for those who retire in the new system but have built up qualifying years in the old system. These make it hard for affected people to know whether to pay voluntary NI, until the DWP can provide figures on the new basis.

HMRC has extended the rules for the payment of voluntary NI contributions so that those affected have more flexibility to make voluntary contributions and time to wait until the DWP can provide the figures. This page will be updated if the changes become law.

Paying voluntary NICs

The NICs that you can pay voluntarily are normally Class 3 contributions, but if you're self-employed or living abroad, you can pay Class 2 contributions instead. 

Before deciding whether to pay voluntary NICs, you should make sure that: 

  • there are gaps in your NI record for which payment can be made
  • you know how much you need to pay
  • you understand the benefits of paying 

If you are unsure, you should ring the DWP Future Pension Centre on 0191 218 3600. 

When you can't pay voluntary NICs 

You cannot always pay Class 3 contributions; for example, if: 

  • you're a married woman (or a widow) and paid reduced rate contributions for that year
  • you reached state pension age in that year
  • you're entitled to NI credits - although there are exceptions to this rule. 

Deciding whether to pay voluntary NICs 

It isn't always right for you to pay voluntary NICs.  It depends on several things, for example, how much you've paid in already and when you reach your state pension age. 

Click here to read more about deciding whether to pay voluntary NICs.  

The cost of voluntary NICs 

The cost depends on the year you want to pay for.  The cost for the 2014/15 tax year is: 

  • £13.90 a week for Class 3 voluntary NICs
  • £2.75 a week for Class 2 voluntary NICs 

Periods spent abroad 

You may be able to pay voluntary NICs if you're living abroad, or fill in gaps from when you were living abroad.  There are special rules for this, and you can find them here.

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