Check Your State Pension forecast tool launched to ‘simplify’ filling National Insurance Contributions gaps

The government claims the online Check Your State Pension forecast will allow people to avoid having to phone HMRC and the DWP

Check Your State Pension forecast symbolised by pounds and notes
The Check Your State Pension forecast tool launched on Monday (29 April)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The government has launched a new digital Check Your State Pension forecast service that it claims will make it easier for people to boost their National Insurance record.

Intended to help people check for gaps in their National Insurance Contributions (NICs) and voluntarily fill them, the Check Your State Pension portal (which is also available through the HMRC app) will provide “peace of mind” to those planning for their retirement and could help “thousands” of pensioners, according to the Treasury.

The move has been welcomed by pensions experts as it should allow people to avoid having to phone HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Former pensions minister Steve Webb was among those to praise the development, although he also urged the government to allocate more resources to the DWP to avoid creating a “bottleneck” for entitlement reassessments.

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It comes after a deadline to buy National Insurance credits to cover a longer period than the standard six years was extended to the end of the current tax year in April 2025. In the run up to the previous deadline in April 2023, £392m of voluntary class 3 NICs were paid as people sought to add thousands of pounds to their annual entitlement.

To receive the full state pension, you have to have 35 years of NICs. On 6 April 2024, the maximum amount you can get rose 8.5% to £11,502 a year (£221.20 per week) thanks to the triple lock.

Check Your State Pension forecast tool will ‘simplify’ process, DWP claims

Launched today (29 April), the new online portal is being jointly run by HMRC and the DWP. It will allow users to see their existing National Insurance record, as well as a forecast of how much state pension they would currently be eligible for when they hit retirement.

The service will also show people who find gaps in their record how much they would need to pay to fill them, and the impact this would have on their final entitlement. People can also opt to select the individual years for which they’d like to boost their pension. However, it is currently unavailable to those who are already receiving the state pension, self-employed people and those who currently live outside the UK who have gaps in their pension record as a result of working abroad.  These people will still have to phone HMRC and the DWP.

The government says those wishing to pay for additional years of NICs will be able to do so securely through the portal. Those who do pay will be sent a confirmation, which will confirm that their National Insurance record will be updated. To log into the service, you will need to have your Personal Tax Account login details. If you don’t have any, you will have to register for an online HMRC account on the main government website.

Nigel Huddleston, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “Having peace of mind when planning for retirement is crucial to ensure people can enjoy later life. That’s why HMRC has launched this new online service today, making a real difference for thousands of pensioners in their retirement while providing certainty to those in their middle years and those still planning ahead.”

Pensions Minister Paul Maynard said the service would “help simplify” the process to boost your state pension. He added that he “would encourage everyone to check” their current record.

The new portal is likely to be most beneficial to those who have gaps in their NICs between 6 April 2006 and 5 April 2018. While you can only usually top up gaps over the previous six tax years, the government is currently allowing people to claim back over this particular 12-year period as part of the transition from the Basic State Pension to the New State Pension.

It is also likely to help people who live abroad who wish to make up contributions for the years when they were resident in the UK. But the government has urged people to check if they can purchase National Insurance credits before they consider paying any voluntary contributions.

Check Your State Pension tool ‘must not create bottlenecks’, ex-Pensions Minister urges

Before the launch of the online service, people wanting to boost their state pension record would have to phone the Future Pension Centre at the DWP to find out what gaps needed filling and how much it would cost to do so. They would then have to phone HMRC with an 18-digit reference number to hand in order to make their payment. The subsequent wait for the DWP to update the relevant details could take several weeks or even months.

These phone lines became jammed ahead of the two 2023 deadlines, as people rushed to top up their state pensions. However, experts expect this burden on both the DWP and HMRC should now be greatly reduced.

Former Pensions Minister Steve Webb, who is now a partner at pensions consultancy Lane Clark & Peacock, said the new portal was “very good news” as it would allow people to avoid this onerous process. He said: “It must be a step in the right direction to be able to do all of this without hanging on a telephone. However, simply getting your NI record updated by HMRC is only half of the story. It then needs DWP to reassess your state pension entitlement based on your improved contribution record.

“There are already too many cases where people wait months or longer to get their pension figure revised. It is vital that the government puts in place new capacity at DWP to process all of these changes, otherwise they will simply have created a new bottleneck in the system.”

Webb was echoed by Alice Haine, personal finance analyst at Bestinvest, who said the new portal was “very timely” given the upcoming state pension deadline next spring. Reflecting on who should look at boosting their record, she added: “People who might need to top up include those who took a career break, as well as low earners or expatriates living and working abroad. Pension shortfalls and errors that have come to light in the last decade have particularly affected women who gave up work to look after children, and widows – and it is now thought many divorcees could also have a State Pension shock awaiting them. 

“Plugging any gaps will ensure you receive your full State Pension entitlement, a vital income source in the later stages of life when you may not be fit enough to continue working or have inadequate private pension savings. Remember, whether someone needs to top up will depend on how many more years they plan to work and whether they are eligible for NI tax credits, which fill the gaps - such as those who are sick, were unemployed or took time out to raise a family or care for elderly relations.”

Haine added that anyone thinking about making up a shortfall in their National Insurance record should “start the process straightaway”.

Henry Sandercock
Staff Writer

Henry Sandercock has spent more than eight years as a journalist covering a wide variety of beats. Having studied for an MA in journalism at the University of Kent, he started his career in the garden of England as a reporter for local TV channel KMTV. 

Henry then worked at the BBC for three years as a radio producer - mostly on BBC Radio 2 with Jeremy Vine, but also on major BBC Radio 4 programmes like The World at One, PM and Broadcasting House. Switching to print media, he covered fresh foods for respected magazine The Grocer for two years. 

After moving to - a national news site run by the publisher of The Scotsman and Yorkshire Post - Henry began reporting on the cost of living crisis, becoming the title’s money editor in early 2023. He covered everything from the energy crisis to scams, and inflation. You will now find him writing for MoneyWeek. Away from work, Henry lives in Edinburgh with his partner and their whippet Whisper.