National Insurance – rates, entitlements

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National Insurance number.

Your National Insurance number is your own personal account number. It is unique to you and you keep the same one all your life. It makes sure that the National Insurance contributions and tax you pay are properly recorded against your name.

Who pays National Insurance?

You pay National Insurance contributions if you’re an employee or self-employed and you’re aged 16 and over, as long as your earnings are more than a certain level. If you’re employed you stop paying National Insurance contributions as soon as you reach State Pension age. If you are self-employed, you stop paying Class 2 contributions as soon as you reach State Pension age and Class 4 contributions from the start of the tax year after the one in which you reach State Pension age.

State Pension age is 65 for men born before 6 April 1959 and 60 for women born before 6 April 1950. But it will gradually increase to 65 for women between 2010 and 2020.

When you will need to apply for a National Insurance number

If you don’t already have a National Insurance number you will need to apply for one in the following circumstances.

  • If you need to claim benefits and/or tax credits (or if your partner needs to claim benefits and/or tax credits for you) you will need a National Insurance number. Your application will be made as part of the benefit claim process.
  • If you’re looking for work, starting work or setting up as self-employed you will need a National Insurance number.

How to apply

If you don’t have one, and you have the right to work in the UK, you will need to telephone Jobcentre Plus on Tel 0845 600 0643 (lines are open 8.00 am to 6.00 pm Monday to Friday) to arrange to get one. They may require you to attend an ‘Evidence of identity’ interview. Jobcentre Plus will advise whether your application has been successful or not and, where appropriate, tell you what your National Insurance number is.

The National Insurance number card

When you get a National Insurance number, you’ll normally get a plastic National Insurance number card too. This may take up to 12 weeks from when you applied for your National Insurance number. The card is a useful reminder of your National Insurance number but it is not proof of your identity and you don’t need to have one to start work. It’s the National Insurance number itself that’s important.

National Insurance contributions

If you’re self-employed you normally have to pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions. If your annual profits are over a certain amount you also pay Class 4 contributions. In certain circumstances you may be exempt from paying. Find out more about Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance contributions, including exceptions, by following the links below.

Benefits that depend on National Insurance contributions

Your entitlement to certain state benefits and the amount you can get depends on your National Insurance contributions record. (In some cases it depends on your spouse or civil partner’s contributions.) These benefits include:

  • State Pension
  • contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Bereavement Allowance
  • contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance

You can find a full list of the state benefits that depend on your contributions in the guide ‘National Insurance and state benefits‘.