What is National Insurance?
National Insurance is a tax on earnings and self-employed profits.
Your National Insurance contributions are paid into a fund, from which some state benefits are paid.
This includes the state pension, statutory sick pay or maternity leave, or entitlement to additional unemployment benefits.
Who pays National Insurance?
National Insurance is paid by employers, as well as employees and self-employed workers, until they reach state pension age.
In some cases you may qualify for National Insurance credits, perhaps if you are earning a modest wage, or are acting as a carer.
If you're not currently paying into National Insurance, you can also elect to make voluntary contributions.
Find out more: National Insurance contributions - find out who pays what
Why do I need to pay National Insurance?
Paying National Insurance entitles you to some state benefits, though these vary according to whether you're employed, self-employed or making voluntary contributions.
You'll need to pay into National Insurance for a set number of years to be entitled to receive the state pension.
If you haven't met the minimum amount of contributions, you may not qualify for some benefits.
Find out more: how do I qualify for the state pension? – when you'll qualify, and what you need to do in advance.
Making National Insurance contributions
If you're employed, National Insurance is automatically deducted from your monthly pay.
If you're self-employed, you'll need to organise these contributions yourself, usually through your self-assessment tax return.
Either way, to ensure you pay the right amount of tax, it's important to check that you have the correct tax code.
Find out more: National Insurance rates – a detailed breakdown of how much you'll have to pay
What is my National Insurance number?
National Insurance numbers are set by the Department of Work and Pensions.
Each number is unique - they are used to identify you so the government knows how much tax you have paid, how much state pension you might be owed, and to track your tax allowances.
Each person is only assigned one National Insurance number and you'll use the same one throughout your life.
Your National Insurance number contains two letters, six numbers and a final letter.
How do I apply for a NI number?
If you are a UK national, you should receive an NI number (and NI card) automatically before you turn 16.
If you didn’t, and are under 20, call the National Insurance number helpline (0300 200 3500). If you are older than 20, call the National Insurance application line on 0800 141 2075.
This office is only open Monday to Friday. You’ll need ID, and may need to attend an interview.
If you are moving to the UK, you may have a National Insurance number allocated on your biometric residence permit. If not, you must apply once you are in the UK by calling the helpling number on 0800 141 2075.
Help with your National Insurance number
Below are some commonly asked questions related to your National Insurance card.