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Self-employed National Insurance

Discover how self employed National Insurance works, what the National Insurance class rates mean for self-employed people and how to pay the right amount.

In this article
Coronavirus (COVID-19) self-employed update What is self-employed National Insurance? How does self-employed National Insurance work? Class 2 National Insurance contributions Class 4 National Insurance contributions
National Insurance calculator 2020-21 Voluntary National Insurance Your National Insurance questions answered Submit your 2019-20 tax return with Which?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) self-employed update

The coronavirus pandemic has caused the government to introduce a range of measures to support the self-employed and small businesses that fall into financial hardship as a result of the crisis.

You'll be able to defer tax bill payments to January 2021, as well as VAT payments.

Which? has explained what changes will affect the self-employed in the following advice guides:

And you can follow more of the latest updates and advice related to the COVID-19 outbreak over on our dedicated Which? coronavirus information hub.

What is self-employed National Insurance?

If you're self-employed, it's not just income tax you need to pay on your profits. You also have to make National Insurance contributions.

Just as with anyone who works for an employer, building up National Insurance contributions over your working life entitles you to the state pension, plus other benefits, but it can be complicated to calculate.

This guide gives you step-by-step advice to working out your National Insurance bill if you're self-employed.

  • Get a head start on your 2019-20 tax return with the Which? tax calculator. Tot up your tax bill, get tips on where to save and submit your return direct to HMRC with Which?.

How does self-employed National Insurance work?

National Insurance contributions are paid by employees, employers and self-employed people until they reach state pension age.

While those on a payroll system will have their contributions taken automatically, self-employed people need to organise their own National Insurance payments through their self-assessment tax return.

If you're self-employed, there are three types of National Insurance contribution you may have to pay. These are based on how much profit you make in a year, and are split into classes. Those in self-employment will either be: Class 2, Class 3 or Class 4.

Most people will end up paying Class 2 and Class 4 contributions – a lesser rate on profits exceeding the lowest threshold, and a higher rate on profits that go into the Class 4 boundary.

If you earn below the threshold for Class 2 contributions, you do not need to pay any National Insurance due to having low earnings.

However, you might want to consider making Class 3 voluntary contributions, as gaps in payments could affect your state pension and other benefits. We explain more on Class 3 contributions later on.


Class 2 National Insurance contributions

The payment thresholds for NI contributions in 2020-21 are £3.05 a week for Class 2 contributions on profits over £6,475. This totals £158.60 for the year.

This is up from £3 a week on profits over £6,365 in 2019-20. This totals £156 for the year.

Class 4 National Insurance contributions

In 2020-21 you pay Class 4 National Insurance contributions at 9% on annual profits between £9,500-£50,000. This reduces to 2% for profits over £50,000.

Class contribution How much you earn Payment rate
Class 2 £6,475-£9,500 £3.05 per week
Class 4 £9,500-£50,000 9%
Class 4 More than £50,000 2%

National Insurance calculator 2020-21

Use our National Insurance calculator to discover how much you'll pay in each tax year - simply select the tax year you want from the dropdown list. We've assumed that self-employed people have elected to pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions.  


Voluntary National Insurance

Even if you earn below the Class 2 threshold, you may choose to make these contributions anyway at the same rate.

This will allow you to avoid gaps in your payment history, as these gaps may mean you won’t have enough years of contributions to get the full state pension.

Alternatively, you may choose to make voluntary Class 3 contributions, though the rate tends to be higher and you may not qualify for certain benefits. You can find out more in our guide to Class 3 contributions.

You can usually pay voluntary Class 3 contributions for the past 6 years. The deadline is 5 April each year – so, the deadline to make up gaps for 2014-15 tax year is 5 April 2021.

Your National Insurance questions answered


How do I know if I have National Insurance payment gaps?


You may have gaps in your NI record if there was a period of time where you were:

  • employed and had low earnings
  • unemployed and not claiming benefits
  • self-employed but making small profits or
  • living abroad.

You can find out whether you have payment gaps by requesting your National Insurance record from HMRC. 

You can do this online if you have a Government Gateway account. Alternatively, you can request a printed NI statement by filling out an online form or calling 0300 200 3500.

If you’ve paid National Insurance in the Isle of Man, your records won’t show contributions if you reach state pension age after 5 April 2016. 

To find out how much you’ve paid, email the Isle of Man National Insurance office at

You should contact HMRC if you think your National Insurance record is wrong.


What if I’ve lost my National Insurance number?


Your NI number should be printed on any existing letters about tax, pensions or benefits, or on payslips or P60s if you were employed at one time.

If you still can’t find it, fill in HMRC form CA5403 and send it to the address on the form, or contact the National Insurance numbers helpline – advisers are available on webchat, you can fill in a form online, or you can call 0300 200 3500.

HMRC won’t tell you your NI number over the phone – they’ll post it to you, and it should arrive within 10 working days.


How do I pay National Insurance as self-employed person?


As soon as you become self-employed, you should register with HMRC. You’ll need to fill out a self-assessment tax return each year to report your earnings and business-related spending.

From this self-assessment, HMRC will calculate how much tax you owe based on the amount of profit you make over the tax year – your National Insurance contributions are part of this tax.

The amount of National Insurance you owe will be part of the bill HMRC issues you. For those on ‘payment on account’, this will be split into two payments due by 31 July and 31 January.

Submit your 2019-20 tax return with Which?

Get a head start on your 2019-20 tax return with the Which? tax calculator. Tot up your tax bill, get tips on where to save and submit your return direct to HMRC with Which?.