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National Insurance for British expats…to pay or not to pay, that is the question

If you think you have gaps in your National Insurance Contributions, find out, it’s easy to get hold of your record – then you’ll know where you stand.

Mind the gap sign in the London Underground

British tax payers generally pay National Insurance Contributions (NICs) during their pre-retirement years, which pay towards things like the State Pension. British expats, who have paid their NICs are also entitled to the State Pension. The payment of the State Pension on retirement is largely dependent on a continuous record of NI contributions, either Class 2 or Class 3.

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. (Source: Gov.uk)

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. (Source: Gov.uk)

When I moved away from the UK for the first time, I was a care-free twenty-something and didn’t give my National Insurance contributions a second thought. Luckily my employer did and carried on paying me and them from the UK.

Roll on a few years, a marriage, two children, several moves and a divorce and I have, unfortunately, developed a few gaps in my NI contributions. Basically, I didn’t kept on eye on things while I had been working self-employed overseas.

Pension overview

Making voluntary contributions

Now, back in the UK, I’ve worked out that I can’t “fill” the gaps.  I, like everyone else, have to have qualifying years and can make up to six years’ worth of missing contributions. I’ve got more than six years’ missing. And even if it was just five years, I would have to pay more to the tax office to make up the shortfall than I’d ever recoup in my retirement years. Thank goodness for private pensions!

If you are unsure about your NICs, I urge you to check your National Insurance record on the UK government’s website: Gov.uk.

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