Contributions to boost state pensions will still be considered after deadline
The Government has said it will continue to consider contributions made by people to boost their state pensions, even after a looming deadline passes.
Phone lines have been busy as people have taken action to top up their contributions.
Under arrangements lasting until April 5 2023, they can plug any gaps going back to 2006 in contributions which would count towards their state pension.
After that, they can only go back six tax years.
But on Wednesday, the Government said that if customers are unable to pay voluntary contributions by April 5 2023 for reasons beyond their control, it will consider payments made after the cut-off.
It still expects people to make every effort to make payments for voluntary national insurance contributions by April 5.
But it will take an understanding approach and consider whether to accept payments received after the deadline on a case-by-case basis, depending on individual circumstances.
People generally need 35 years of qualifying national insurance contributions (NICs) to get the full state pension.
A recorded message has been placed on a phoneline for the Future Pension Centre, which says there has been “unprecedented demand” on Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) phonelines.
The message tells people they are expected to make every effort to make payments of voluntary national insurance contributions by April 5, but “don’t worry if you cannot get through”.
A Government spokesperson said: “Voluntary national insurance contributions do not always increase your state pension.
“Customers should make sure they would benefit before making any payments, including to fill gaps in their national insurance records between April 6 2006 and April 5 2016.
“The quickest and easiest way for customers to see information about their state pension and national insurance record is online. If customers need to contact us, we will ensure calls are answered as quickly as possible.
“If customers are unable to pay voluntary contributions by April 5 2023 for reasons beyond their control, we will consider payments made after the deadline on a case-by-case basis.”
Royal London consumer finance specialist Sarah Pennells said: “The new message on the DWP phoneline announcing that it and HMRC will consider voluntary national insurance contributions made after April 5 as being paid on time is very welcome.
“DWP phonelines have been jammed in recent weeks as the deadline by which people can fill in any gaps in their national insurance records going back to 2006 has approached.
“Normally, you are only allowed to fill in gaps up to six years previously, so this opportunity generated huge interest across the country.
“The Department is still urging people to make every effort to make their payment by April 5, but the extension means payments will be accepted after that date.”
Consumer champion and MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis has been highlighting the opportunity for people to boost their state pension.
Speaking on ITV’s The Martin Lewis Money Show in February, he said: “Many people are missing national insurance years – maybe because you were caring for somebody or caring for a child, or you had years abroad, or you had a low income, or you had a career break.”
People can check their own state pension forecast on gov.uk and they can also check whether they are entitled to free national insurance credits, which may apply if they are a parent or were ill, for example.
More information is available at gov.uk/national-insurance-credits/eligibility.
Sir Steve Webb, a former Liberal Democrat pensions minister who is now a partner at consultants LCP (Lane Clark & Peacock) said: “DWP are quite clear that people need to speak to them before paying voluntary NI (national insurance) contributions, but when they try to do so they find it almost impossible to get through.
“Then people also have to speak to HMRC and face another battle to get through. Rather than some vague suggestion of case-by-case exceptions to the deadline, DWP should make it clear now that the deadline will be extended for all people so that there is time to make a considered and informed choice.”