Many people don‘t realise that they have significant gaps in their National Insurance Contribution (NIC) record, and as a result they won‘t be entitled to the full state retirement pension. This can come as a shock when you start to receive your state pension, but by that time it may be too late to fill the gaps in your NIC record.
A taxpayer needs 35 complete NIC years (as payments or national insurance credits) in order to receive the maximum state retirement pension, and at least 10 completed NIC years to receive any state retirement pension.
You can easily check your NIC record for your complete working life on your online personal tax account on gov.uk (https://www.gov.uk/personal-tax-account).
If your NIC record shows there are gaps, don‘t assume the record is completely correct. You need to investigate the reason for any gap and challenge HMRC to look for missing NI contributions or credits.
It is not uncommon for NI credits to be missed by HMRC for periods where you were claiming child benefit or universal credit, and not working. You should have been given NI credits automatically for these periods. In other circumstances (e.g., when acting as foster carer, or a grandparent caring for a child), you need to apply for NI credits.
Where there is a genuine a gap in your NIC record you can normally go back up to six years and pay voluntary contributions to fill in the missing weeks to make a tax year complete for NIC. For example, gaps in your NIC record for the tax year 2016/17 can be filled by voluntary payments made before 6 April 2023.
However, currently there is a special dispensation that allows women born after 5 April 1953 and men born after 5 April 1951, to complete gaps in their NIC record right back to 6 April 2006. This opportunity to make up these old years with voluntary NIC payments closes on 5 April 2023, so there is not much time to take action!