Tracy Henson of accountancy firm Barnett & Turner does the sums. We all joke that by the time we reach retirement age, the state pension won’t be worth having. But let’s not give up on it just yet. I’m still looking forward to getting my own pension and I know what I should get, but do you? And do you know how to make your position better if you find that you haven’t already done enough to qualify for the full amount?
Whether, and to what extent, you qualify for a state pension is determined by reference to your work history or, more accurately, your National Insurance record.
It’s relatively easy for me, as an employee with a regular income, to say that my National Insurance record is building up nicely, but for the self-employed and especially those in the struggling agricultural sector, it’s not so clear-cut. National Insurance reliefs claimed in the past could have a nasty sting in the tail when it comes to accruing qualifying years.
To get any state pension, you need to accrue a minimum of 10 qualifying years. Reach this and you'll be paid 10/35ths of the full £155-pw state pension, or about £44. If you don't manage to meet this minimum, you won't get a penny. To get the full £155 pension you’ll need to have accrued 35 qualifying years. Doing the maths, each additional qualifying year increases the pension by £4 per week or £208 per year.
So what is a qualifying year and what’s the issue?
- For the self-employed, a qualifying year is one during which they have continuously paid Class 2 National Insurance.
- Those with low earnings could (and can still) be exempted from paying Class 2 National Insurance, which is not at all uncommon in the agricultural sector, bearing in mind low profitability in recent years. Even in a good year, capital investment may have resulted in much lower taxable profits and therefore low earnings for this purpose. Claiming exemption because of low earnings may have been sensible at the time but, not having paid the Class 2 will result in gaps in your National Insurance record and, quite possibly, a reduced state pension.
How do you know if you have a problem and, is there a fix?
If you have any concerns regarding your entitlement to a state pension – or a full state pension – we would recommend that you request a state pension statement and/or a National Insurance statement. These statements will highlight whether there are any gaps in your National Insurance record and to what extent your state pension suffers as a result.
As regards filling any gaps, the solution is simple. At least for me it is! I won’t reach retirement age until 30 June 2048, so I’ve got another 32 years to work and accrue qualifying years. If you are closer to retirement age however, you can make voluntary National Insurance contributions. It can cost as little as £145 to fill a gap year, which seems like a reasonable figure, bearing in mind the annual increase in state pension as a result will be £208.
If you would like to know how to request a state pension statement or a National Insurance statement, just ask your accountant for advice.
If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org