Tax Credits: National Insurance Credits

A person who receives Working Tax Credit but doesn’t pay National Insurance (NI) contributions, because their earnings are too low, may receive automatic NI credits that help to protect entitlement to state pension and certain bereavement benefits.

National Insurance - the basics

There are various earnings-related rules about National Insurance contributions. If you earn weekly, then a weekly earnings limit is used and if you earn monthly, then a monthly limit is used. NI contributions and credits relate to each pay period. You are allowed to earn a certain amount before you have to pay anything but if you earn less than the lower earnings limit in a week, then that wage won’t normally contribute to your National Insurance record. The actual rates and thresholds usually change each year and can be found on the GOV.UK website.

The rates quoted on this page are for the 2021/2022 tax year.

If you earn above the National Insurance Primary Threshold, currently £183 per week, then you should pay National Insurance contributions and that should be clear on your pay or wage slip. If you earn above the Secondary Threshold of £170 per week your employer will also be liable to pay the employer rate of national insurance related to your employment/earnings.

If you earn above the Lower Earning Limit (LEL) for National Insurance, currently £120 per week but below the Primary Threshold (£184 per week), then you won’t actually pay any NI contributions on that wage but your record will be automatically credited with basic NI credits for that week.

If you earn below the Lower Earnings Limit (LEL) for National Insurance, then you won’t be liable to pay NI contributions and that week won’t generally contribute towards your NI record.

More information about National Insurance contributions is on the GOV.UK website.

However, if you earn below the Lower Earnings Limit, aren’t already paying NI contributions and you also receive Working Tax Credit (WTC), then you may be entitled to receive National Insurance credits which protect your NI contribution record towards receipt of certain state benefits and state pension.

There is more information about NI credits on the GOV.UK website.

WTC and NI Credits

Broadly, people who get WTC with earnings below the LEL (or as a self-employed person your earnings are below the small profits threshold, £6,515per year) should get the following types of NI credits:-

Joint claims and NI credits

If you have a joint claim to WTC, the legislation treats WTC as paid to the person with earnings. If a couple both have earnings and both are in qualifying remunerative work for WTC, then they can choose which of them is paid WTC and the person who is physically paid the WTC will receive the credits (see our payments section). This latter point is extremely important as many sources of information on this topic from HMRC and DWP refer to people ‘getting’ or ‘receiving’ WTC in order to receive the credits which can mislead joint claimants into believing that it makes no difference whom they choose to be paid the WTC. Following representations from LITRG, since 2012 TC600 claim form notes were changed so that they carried a warning message as, prior to this date the notes were silent on this point. HMRC withdrew the TC600 claim notes in April 2019 so claimants will again need to be vigilant. If any claimant has missed out on credits as a result of making the wrong election prior to 2012/13 or, in relation to a new claim for tax credits, the wrong election from 6 April 2019,  providing their partner was not given or did not need the credits, a complaint should be made to the HMRC and onwards to the Adjudicator’s Office if necessary. More information can be found in our making a complaint section.

NI credits paid in respect of WTC entitlement should be made automatically but you can ask HMRC for a statement of your National Insurance record to check whether you have paid the correct contributions and whether you are receiving any automatic credits. You can also check your contribution record in your Personal Tax Account. More information on how to do this can be found on the GOV.UK website.

Last reviewed/updated 7 May 2021