National Insurance explained National Insurance rates
Class 1 National Insurance Contributions
You pay Class 1 contributions on your salary or wage, commission, bonuses and overtime, as well as on sick pay and maternity, paternity and adoption pay from an employer.
National Insurance earnings threshold
National Insurance is calculated on gross earnings (before tax or pension deductions) above the earnings threshold. For 2013/14 the National Insurance threshold is £149 a week or £7,750 a year.
- If you earn above the threshold you pay 12% of your earnings between £7,750 and £41,450
- Anything you earn above £41,450 a year, you pay National Insurance at 2%
- If your earnings are below the earnings threshold you pay no National Insurance contributions
- You still build up rights to benefits, provided you earn £5,668 a year or more up to the lower earnings limit.
- This is done through National Insurance credits.
Class 2 National Insurance Contributions
You pay Class 2 contributions if you are self-employed.
- Class 2 contributions are £2.70 a week for 2013/14.
- On profits (earnings less allowable expenses) below a certain limit – £5,725 for 2013/14 – you can elect not to pay National Insurance.
Class 4 National Insurance Contributions
If you're self-employed, you must additionally pay Class 4 contributions once your profits reach a certain limit.
- In 2013/14 Class 4 contributions are 9% of taxable profits between £7,755 and £41,450,
- On profits over £41,450, Class 4 contributions are 2% of profits.
Go further: For more on self-employment, see the Which? guide to tax for the self-employed.
Class 3 National Insurance Contributions
These are voluntary contributions that count towards your total contribution record. You can pay them only if:
- you're not working
- you're not liable for, or you're exempt from, Class 1 or Class 2 contributions
- your contributions for a specific year aren't enough to count towards state pension entitlement, or
- you live abroad.
The 2013/14 Class 3 NI rate is £13.55 a week.
If you're self-employed and exempt from Class 2 contributions on account of low profits, it is cheaper to pay Class 2 NI contributions voluntarily than make Class 3 NICs.
The same applies for years when you work overseas for a foreign employer, but you still want to get the benefits that paying Nation Insurance entitles you to you for when you come back to the UK. Both count towards your benefits entitlement.
Reduced rate National Insurance Contributions
Until 1977, married women could opt to make National Insurance contributions at a reduced rate. They stopped building up entitlement to state pension in their own right and instead relied on their husband's National Insurance contributions record.
Women who took this option can continue to make reduced National Insurance contributions or pay at the full rate and build up individual pension entitlement. With reduced contributions, their maximum entitlement is currently 60% of basic state pension.
From 2016, any women in this position who have yet to reach state pension age will no longer be eligible. Their pension entitlement will depend instead on the number of qualifying years National Insurance contributions they have made in their own right. The minimum required to get any state pension is expected to be 10.