Getting the state pension? Don't bin an HMRC letter that may be worth £10,000s – it's NOT a scam
If you're getting the state pension and receive a letter from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in the post, DON'T bin it. It's not a scam, and it could help you boost your pension by £10,000s. Below we explain what you need to know and answer your most common questions.
HMRC has started writing to 100,000s of people – mostly women – who may be missing out on their full state pension entitlement due to an error in their national insurance records. Specifically, this affects those who took time off work to care for family between 1978 and 2010, as they may be missing what's known as 'home responsibilities protection' (HRP).
Letters are being sent out in phases, with those over state pension age (66) being contacted first.
You may not be getting your full state pension entitlement for other reasons – see our State pension underpayments guide.
What the HMRC letter will say and how to check if it's genuine
HMRC has asked us not to publish any part of the letter, to avoid the risk of having it mimicked by scammers – though we can share that the letter will be titled "You may be eligible for Home Responsibilities Protection", and will direct you to visit the Gov.uk Home Responsibilities Protection (HRP) page.
If you're worried that a letter you've received might be a scam, it's best not to act on it until you've confirmed it's authentic.
You can check a list of recent letters sent by HMRC at Gov.uk. You can also contact HMRC directly by calling 0300 200 3500 if you're still unsure.
Do note: HMRC will NEVER threaten arrest or push you to transfer money over the phone. For more help and tips to avoid scams, see our Stop scams guide.
If you've got the letter, check you're eligible to boost your state pension
You'll be asked to check whether you were eligible for HRP between 1978 and 2010, which you can do online on Gov.uk. If the checker says you're eligible, you'll be able to submit your claim online and HMRC will update your national insurance record, which may increase your state pension payments.
If you're unable or don't want to claim online, you can request a paper claim form by calling the national insurance helpline on 0300 200 3500.
Haven't got a letter but think you might be eligible for HRP? Hang tight for now
People currently getting the state pension are most immediately affected, as the gaps in their records could be having a direct impact on their payments right now – so that's the group HMRC is prioritising first, with those close to retirement to follow.
If you're still years off state pension age, it's best to hold off applying for the time being and wait for HMRC to contact you – otherwise the process could slow down for everyone. In the meantime, if you've changed address, make sure you let HMRC know.
After we first published this story on Tuesday 10 October, we received lots of questions from MoneySavers about how the claims process works. We put the most common questions to HMRC – here's what it said:
- Q: My family member may have been affected, but they've passed away. Can I claim on their behalf?
A: Yes – you will be able to claim on behalf of your deceased family member using the same form as those claiming for themselves.
More details about when the next of kin of those affected will be contacted will be released "in due course", according to HMRC.
- Q: I think I could be eligible, but I now live outside the UK. What do I do?
A: The claims process is the same for people who now live outside the UK, as long as you lived in the UK for the period you're claiming HRP for. Your letter will be sent to the address HMRC has on file for you – if this has changed, tell HMRC.
- Q: I can't remember the exact dates that I was claiming Child Benefit. How do I proceed?
A: You may be owed HRP if you were claiming Child Benefit between 1978 and 2010. If this is the case, you'll be asked to provide the dates you received this in your application.
If you can't remember the exact dates, there unfortunately isn't a straightforward process to find this out. If you can, try to dig out any old records you may still have around (for example, letters or statements you were sent at the time).
According to HMRC, the tax years claimed are usually from the year after the child was born to the year before their 16th birthday. But if you're really not sure, it's best to call HMRC on 0300 200 3500.
- Q: How long will it take for my claim to be processed?
A: We don't know exactly, as HMRC hasn't given any timeframes – though it did say it had added more staff to help deal with claims.
It's unlikely to be a quick process though. That's because correcting state pension underpayments is a huge and complicated undertaking involving multiple Government departments, and the issue affects a lot of people.
In its most recent annual report, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which is responsible for paying the state pension, said: "The amount of time it will take to correct records is uncertain. We will take a proactive approach... and pay any arrears as quickly as possible."
Why are some people being underpaid their state pension?
While the full state pension is currently £203.85 a week, how much you receive depends on the number of 'qualifying' national insurance (NI) years you have. You can collect these by working and paying NI, or if you're claiming benefits or caring for others. (This system was previously called 'home responsibilities protection' until it was replaced by national insurance credits in 2010.)
In July, the Government admitted that about 210,000 people – mainly women – could have been underpaid up to £1.3 billion due to gaps in their NI records and said it would start identifying and contacting those affected this year.
The average amount owed due to state pension underpayments is around £5,000, according to the DWP. For more info, see our full State pension errors guide.
Watch: Martin Lewis Money Show Live viewer reclaims £82,000
To show how much state pension underpayment claims can sometimes be worth, below is a clip of Gill, who found she was due a life-changing amount of money after seeing MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis explain the issue (video courtesy of ITV's The Martin Lewis Money Show – 29 October 2020).
You can turn on subtitles in the video by clicking the closed captions icon at the bottom right of the video.