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Boosting your state pension should now be quicker and easier for some as new limited online tool launches – here's how it works

A new online service designed to simplify how you check and pay for voluntary national insurance (NI) contributions is now available. It should make the state pension boosting process quicker and easier for most people. But you WON'T be able to use this initial launch version of the tool if you're already getting your state pension or you're looking to fill gaps from when you were self-employed or working abroad.

The tool was first promised to MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis on ITV's The Martin Lewis Money Show Live last summer. It was originally expected to launch before the end of the 2023/24 financial year, but it was delayed until Monday 29 April.

This article has full info on the new online tool, but for the lowdown on whether it's worth you buying NI years, see our Voluntary national insurance contributions guide.

The Government's new online service aims to speed up the state pension boosting process

Previously you needed to make two phone calls to do this – the first to the Future Pension Centre to find out if paying for any NI years would actually boost your state pension, and the second to HM Revenue & Customs to get a reference number to actually be able to pay. Now many can do it online. Here's how the new service works:

  • You can access it through the 'Check your State Pension forecast' page on Gov.uk. It's also available through the HMRC app, which you can download for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

    You'll need to log in using your Personal Tax Account login details. If you don't already have an online HMRC account, you can register at Gov.uk.

  • It shows you your state pension forecast, then shows if you can pay to boost your pension. You usually need at least 35 full 'NI years' to get the current maximum state pension of £221.20 a week, though some will need more. 

    To boost your state pension entitlement, you can buy 'NI years' to fill any gaps. Usually you're limited to buying the last six years, but when the 'new' state pension was introduced in 2016, transitional arrangements were put in place to let you plug gaps all the way back to 2006. 

    If the tool shows buying years will actually boost your state pension forecast, then you can move on to pay for them. You need to pay in full via bank transfer or through 'Open Banking' – you can't pay in instalments.

    Initial feedback on Twitter from some MoneySavers is that the new service is "simple" and "quick" to use.  

  • You CAN'T use the online tool if you're already getting your state pension or if you're looking to fill gaps from when you were self-employed or working abroad. You also won't be able to use the tool if:
    - You're within four months and eight days of state pension age.
    - You hold a 'Married Women’s Reduced Rate Election certificate', which means you paid or continue to pay less in NI – see Gov.uk for more info on how this works.
    - You're eligible for 'home responsibilities protection' because you took time off work between 1978 and 2010 to care for a child, or someone with a long term medical condition – for more on this, see our guide on Women missing out on £1,000s of state pension.
    - Your NI record is currently being updated, for example, if you recently bought NI years.

    HMRC says it's looking to expand the new service "in the future", but it currently has no timeframe on this. For now, you can still buy NI years by following the existing process – see below.

If you can't use the new tool, you can still ring up to buy missing NI years

If you're currently unable to use the new online tool, or you'd prefer to talk to someone on the phone, you can still call up to find out more information about your NI record and to pay for missing years.

First, you need to check your NI record online, then call the Government-backed Future Pensions Centre or Pensions Service to get one-to-one advice, then call HMRC to get an 18-digit payment number, before most can finally pay for any missing years. 

If you're buying NI years for a period where you lived or worked abroad, you'll need to complete an additional stage digitally via GOV.UK or you can complete and return form CF83 (found at the end of leaflet NI83) by post.

The process is complex, and it's not guaranteed that buying extra years will actually boost the state pension you get – so for full instructions, see our Voluntary national insurance contributions guide. 

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