Martin’s guide to “Top-Up” your state pension

Buying voluntary Class 3 National Insurance contributions can help you top up your state pension if you have gaps in your record. Money Saver Martin reveals how much voluntary contributions cost and how to buy them.
Why might I need to top up my National Insurance record?

Martin suggests that you may have gaps or part years in your National Insurance (NI) record due to a number of reasons – you may have been employed on low earnings or unemployed but not claiming benefits.
If your National Insurance record is incomplete you can make up one or more qualifying years by paying voluntary contributions – known as Class 3 contributions. Voluntary Class 2 contributions are for low-income self-employed people.
How many full National Insurance qualifying years you have is important as it will go some way to determining how much state pension you’ll get.
How many years NI contributions are needed for a full pension?
Previously, you were entitled to a full pension after 30 years of National Insurance contributions, it’s now 35.
To qualify at all, you need 10 years of National Insurance payments. Find out more in our guide to National Insurance and the state pension.
People must usually pay the voluntary contributions within six years of the year in question, although there are some exceptions.
The cost of the extra contributions varies depending on which system you qualify under – see below – but everyone can top up their pension in this way if they have gaps.
Martin’s method to check if I’ve any National Insurance gaps?
You’ll need to access your National Insurance record to check if you have any gaps, if you’re eligible to pay voluntary contributions, and how much it will cost.
Visit the Check your State Pension website to get a summary of your National Insurance history and gaps you might have.
How many years of missing National Insurance can I buy?
You can usually pay voluntary contributions for the past six years. The deadline is 5 April each year.
So you have until 5 April 2020 to make up for gaps for the tax year 2013 to 2014.
Can I pay gaps of more than six years?
You can sometimes pay for gaps from more than six years ago, depending on your age.
Pensioners have 6 years after you reach state pension age to increase their state pension if you’re a man born between 6 April 1945 and 5 April 1950 or a woman born between 6 April 1950 and 5 October 1952
If you’re a man born after 5 April 1951 or a woman born after 5 April 1953, you have until 5 April 2023 to pay voluntary contributions to make up for gaps between April 2006 and April 2016.
How much do voluntary National Insurance contributions cost in 2019?
If you qualify under the old state pension system
This is men born before 6 April 1951 and women born before 6 April 1953.
Every week that you plug a gap for in 2019-20 will cost you £15 (for financial years more than two years ago) or £780 maximum if you contribute the whole year.
If you are paying for a relatively recent year (2017/18 or 2018/19) you would pay the rate that applied in those years. These are £14.25 for 2017/18 and £14.65 for 2018/19.
In return, you’ll get another full qualifying year added to your National Insurance record. This will add an extra £4.31 (£129.20/30) per week or £223.95 a year in 2019/20.
It will take around three-and-a-half years of receiving your state pension to recoup your outlay, and you’d get the extra pension for the rest of your life.
If you qualify under the new state pension system
Those covered under the new state pension are men born on or after 6 April 1951 and women born on or after 6 April 1953.
The current rate is again £15.00 per week, but the rate varies on the week you want to make up.
For gaps between 2006 and 2010, the rate is £13.25 providing you make the contributions by 5 April 2019.
After that you pay the rate applied to the year in question:
• £12.05 in 2010-11;
• £12,60 in 2011-12;
• £13.25 in 2012-13;
• £13.55 in 2013-14;
• £13.90 in 2014-15;
• £14.10 in 2015-16;
• £14.10 in 2016-17;
• £14.25 in 2017-18;
• £14.65 in 2018-19;
• £15.00 in 2019-20
From 6 April onwards, the cost of filling missing weeks’ of National Insurance contributions between 2006 and April 2017 is £15 per week.
To fill gaps from 2017-18 and 2018-19, the cost is £14.25 and £14.65, respectively.
Who can pay voluntary National Insurance contributions?
A wide range of people can pay voluntary National Insurance contributions. Those in employment (Class 3) and the self-employed (usually Class 2) can plug gaps.
Those who’ve reached state pension age and want to fill in gaps in their National Insurance record are able to via Class 3 contributions.
Citizens living abroad and working (Class 2) or not working (Class 3) can still add contribution years.
Should I do it?
Voluntary contributions won’t always increase your state pension, so you’ll need to find out if you’ll benefit from plugging the gaps.
It may be a good idea to consider it if:
• you’re close to state pension age and don’t have enough qualifying years to get the full state pension
• you know you won’t be able to get the qualifying years you need to get the full state pension during your working life
• you’re self-employed and don’t have to pay Class 2 contributions because you have low profits or live outside the UK, but you want to qualify for some benefits.

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