National Insurance – voluntary contributions

1. Gaps in your National Insurance record

You may get gaps in your record if you don’t pay National Insurance or don’t get National Insurance credits. This could be because you were:

  • employed but had low earnings
  • unemployed and weren’t claiming benefits
  • self-employed but didn’t pay contributions because of small profits
  • living abroad

Gaps can mean you won’t have enough years of National Insurance contributions to get the full State Pension (sometimes called ‘qualifying years’).

You may be able to pay voluntary contributions to fill any gaps depending on whether you’re eligible.


Find out if you have gaps by requesting your National Insurance record. Your record will tell you if you can pay voluntary contributions to fill gaps and how much it will cost you.

You may also be eligible for National Insurance credits if you claim benefits because you can’t work, are unemployed or caring for someone full time.

Contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) if you think your National Insurance record is wrong.

Get help and advice

Contact the Future Pension Centre to find if there are other ways you can increase your State Pension.

Check your State Pension entitlement

You may want also to get financial advice before you decide to make voluntary contributions.

Decide if you want to pay voluntary contributions

You may want to pay voluntary contributions because:

  • 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

Self-employed people with specific jobs

Some people don’t pay Class 2 contributions through Self Assessment, but may want to pay voluntary contributions. These are:

  • examiners, moderators, invigilators and people who set exam questions
  • people who run businesses involving land or property
  • ministers of religion who don’t receive a salary or stipend
  • people who make investments for themselves or others – but not as a business and without getting a fee or commission.

2. Eligibility

You must be eligible to pay voluntary National Insurance contributions for the time that the contributions cover.

You can usually only pay for gaps in your National Insurance record from the past 6 years.

You can sometimes pay for gaps from more than 6 years ago depending on your age.

Who can pay voluntary contributions

These tables explain who’s eligible to pay Class 2 or Class 3 contributions (based on 2018/2019 limits).

Your situation Which class to pay
Employed but earning under £116 a week and not eligible for National Insurance credits Class 3
Self-employed with profits under £6,205 Class 2 or Class 3 – they count towards different benefits
Both employed and self-employed, with low earnings and small profits Contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to check if you have a gap and how much you need to pay
Self-employed as an examiner, minister of religion or in an investment or land and property business Class 2 or Class 3 – they count towards different benefits
Living and working abroad Class 2 – but only if you worked in the UK immediately before leaving, and you’ve previously lived in the UK for 3 years in a row or paid 3 years’ National Insurance
Living abroad but not working Class 3 – but only if at some point you’ve lived in the UK continuously for 3 years or paid 3 years of contributions
Unemployed and not claiming benefits Class 3
Married woman or widow who stopped paying reduced rates Class 3

You can’t pay voluntary contributions if:

  • you’re eligible for National Insurance credits
  • you’re a married woman or widow paying reduced rates.

3. Rates

The rates for the 2018 to 2019 tax year are:

  • £2.95 a week for Class 2
  • £14.65 a week for Class 3

When you pay different rates

You usually pay the current rate when you make a voluntary contribution.

However, if you’re paying Class 2 contributions for the previous tax year or Class 3 contributions for the previous 2 tax years, you pay the original rate for those tax years.

If you’re living abroad, read leaflet NI38 and fill in form CF83 (found at the end). Send it back to HMRC using the address on the form.


You can usually pay voluntary contributions for the past 6 years. The deadline is 5 April each year.


You pay Class 3 voluntary National Insurance to fill gaps in your contributions record and qualify for benefits like the State Pension.

You can ask HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to check your National Insurance record. HMRC will then write to let you know if:

  • you can make voluntary contributions
  • how much to pay

Ways to pay

You can pay monthly via Direct Debit.

Contact HMRC if you want to pay by another method. They’ll send you a bill every July, October, January and April.

Make sure you pay HMRC by the deadline you’re given. The amount of time you’ll need to allow depends on how you pay.

You can no longer pay at the Post Office.

Same or next day

  • online or telephone banking(Faster Payments)
  • at your bank or building society

3 working days

  • Bacs
  • by cheque through the post

One-off payments

You can also make one-off payments using any of these methods apart from Direct Debit.



Copyright / / 2019