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Ask an expert: ‘Why am I missing state pension qualifying years even though I claimed child benefit?’

Why the date you have a baby could affect your state pension benefits

Every week, our money experts answer your financial queries. You can submit your questions to money-letters@which.co.uk, or via our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Q. My wife recently checked her National Insurance record to see how many qualifying years she has for her state pension. 1982 is not showing as a qualifying year, even though we had a child in September 1982 and immediately claimed child benefit. Can you explain why this might be?

Submitted via the Which? Money Helpline

A. Keeping track of your National Insurance record is vitally important, as the number of qualifying years of National Insurance contributions you have impact on the amount of state pension you get.

Since April 2016, you need to have a minimum of 10 years’ worth of National Insurance contributions to qualify for any state pension at all. To get the full state pension, which is currently worth £159.55 a week or £8,296 a year, you’ll need to have 35 years’ worth of contributions.

National Insurance comes out of your pay – either Class 1 contributions if you’re employed, and Class 2 and/or Class 4 contributions if you’re self-employed (depending on your profits for the year).

But if you’ve stopped working, say to start a family, you can still build up entitlement to the state pension through ‘Class 3’ National Insurance credits.

How does child benefit work?

If you’re responsible for a child, you could be eligible for a payment from the government called ‘child benefit’. The child needs to be either under 16, or under 20 and in an approved form of education or training, for you to qualify.

There are two rates – £20.70 a week for your eldest or only child, and £13.70 a week for each additional child.

However, only one person in a couple can claim child benefit payments, which are tax-free if both you and your partner’s income is £50,000 or less.

If you earn more than £50,000, you pay a tax charge of 1% of the child benefit you’re paid for every £100 you earn over that amount. When you reach £60,000, the tax charge amounts to the full child benefit you receive and must be repaid.

Find out more in our guide on child benefit.

Why am I missing a year?

Any full tax year in which you claim child benefit counts as a qualifying year towards the state pension, and even if you aren’t working you’ll get National Insurance credits until your youngest child is 12.

However, the key word there is ‘full’ tax year, meaning from 6 April to 5 April – it needs to be the whole tax year to count. As your wife didn’t start claiming child benefit until September 1982, it will not be treated as a qualifying year.

If you’re missing any years of contributions, you can fill gaps by purchasing ‘voluntary’ National Insurance contributions. You can top up missing years from 2006 onwards.

Find out more in our guide to topping up your state pension.

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