People who worked in Britain have been warned that they have just weeks left to benefit from a special concession to top up their pension from the UK.
Thousands of Irish people worked in Britain and paid the equivalent of our social insurance there, giving them access to a pension.
There is now an opportunity for these people to add up to 16 extra years to their UK pension, but the window closes on April 5.
Opting for the special top up could be hugely beneficial, allowing people to get a much higher pension from Britain in addition to any pensions they are due to get from this country, according to Frank Buckley of USP Financial, a Co Offlay-based firm that specialises in helping returned immigrants secure their UK state pension entitlements.
He said that under the UK system people are normally allowed pay for a maximum of six historic years missing from their national insurance (NI) record there. NI is the equivalent of PRSI here.
“They are missing because they did not work in the UK in those years because they left the country,” Mr Buckley said.
Major changes were introduced to the UK state pension in 2016.
One of the changes was the introduction of what was called the New State Pension.
Under the old state pension people required 30 qualifying years on their NI record to secure the full standard rate which is currently £141.85 (€160.82) per week. This is increasing to £156.20 per week from mid-April.
With the new pension people are now required to have 35 qualifying years on their NI record to reach the full standard rate of £185.15 per week. This is increasing to £203.85 from mid-April.
“Anybody whose qualifying years straddles pre and post-April 2016 will have a hybrid state pension entitlement consisting of the old and the new state pensions.”
When it made the changes the British government introduced a concession allowing a wider window for paying historic years to encourage people to maximise their NI records.
This means people can currently pay for a maximum of 16 historical years (2006/07 to 2021/22) missing from their NI record.
Normally you can only pay for a maximum of six years.
But this concession is closing on April 5 and the option to pay for the 11 earliest of those 16 years will be gone forever.
After April 5 the voluntary contribution system reverts back to the maximum six historic years.
Paying for 16 historic years would improve an existing UK state pension entitlement by £79.02 a week. It will be £87.00 after mid-April with a pension rise.
Mr Buckley said the priority now is for people to at least submit an application to HM Revenue and Customs for voluntary contributions ahead of the deadline.
People can find the application form, the Form CF83, as the last two pages in the HMRC manual NI38 which you can locate on gov.uk.
He said people can complete it and send it off to HM Revenue and Customs.
People are under no obligation to pay for all 16 years. They can choose to pay for some, all or none of those additional years as it is a voluntary system.
Mr Buckley said once approved for voluntary contributions, people can continue paying them up to their UK state retirement date of 66. The maximum number of years is 35.