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HomeEconomySavers who bought state pension top-ups complain of delays

Savers who bought state pension top-ups complain of delays


Terry Cooper: Top-ups haven’t been sorted for over a year, until This is Money stepped in on behalf of the army veteran

Savers who got caught up in phone chaos when they bought state pension supplements earlier this year tell us that their payments are still not on their record months later.

And in an even longer delay, Terry Cooper paid almost £5,000 in spring 2022.

He was still waiting for his June additions to be processed, a few days before he turned 66 and became eligible for his state pension.

Mr Cooper, pictured right during his time in the army, made half a dozen phone calls and then lodged a formal complaint – which HMRC closed, still without updating his file.

We’ve also received a series of messages from people struggling to buy top-ups because phone lines were overloaded for months earlier this year.

They are now concerned about what has become of the hundreds or thousands of pounds they handed over.

Tracey Stiles, a 63-year-old retired bank employee, managed to pay £5,000 in March for six years worth of top-ups after some difficulty.

But she got no receipt or confirmation and was still waiting for her NI record to be updated this month.

This is Money was the first to reveal in February that the Department for Work and Pensions phone lines were overwhelmed as depositors scrambled to fill old holes in state pensions before a special deal expired in April.

After campaigning for an extension, the date was pushed back to July 31, but demand continued to rise.

And a few weeks ago, the phone outage forced the government to extend this crisis deadline to buy additional state pension supplements for the second time – the end date is now April 5, 2025.

Ministers have decided that people will have more time to take advantage of the special concession allowing them to refuel or buy additional years from 2006/2007, instead of just six years as usual.

Savers can still do this at the current rates of up to £824 for each year, and less for any part-year period, for almost another two years.

Purchasing AOW supplements can give a significant boost to retirement income if you fill the right years.

But it can be difficult to figure out which years will benefit you individually, and the government itself and other money experts warn you to check with the DWP before handing over your money.

> Read This is Money’s guide to buying state pension supplements

This is Money readers tell us that their calls constantly get cut off right away or just after listening to an automated message for a few minutes.

They also complain that the top-up system is confusing and unwieldy as the information line is run by the DWP, but the top-up payments have to be made to HMRC.

Meanwhile, the DWP calculates state pensions, while HMRC is responsible for updating the National Insurance data on which payments are based.

We asked both government departments about their current call waiting times for people requesting top-ups, and the most recent data on the number of calls per month not allowed to queue, but received no response.

We also asked about the current time lag between buying top-ups, having payments added to an NI record and updating state pension forecasts, and how many people are currently locked into this system at any given time.

They told us that people using an HMRC reference number to make bank transfer payments would need to have their National Insurance details updated within days – although Ms Stiles did this and waited three months.

Those who send HMRC a check plus details including the HMRC reference number can wait up to eight weeks for top-ups to show up in their NI record.

The DWP and HMRC had no figures ‘to hand’ on how many NI records and state pension projections are currently waiting to be updated following the payment of voluntary contributions.

People are understandably concerned when their money seems to disappear into a government “black hole” and they can’t figure out what happened

Steve Webb, former Minister of Pensions

After This is Money flagged Mr Cooper and Ms Stiles’ complaints, a government spokesman said: ‘We have investigated the cases of both clients and have updated their National Insurance records.

We apologize to all customers experiencing delays due to a recent increase in demand.

“The deadline for voluntary contributions has been extended to 5 April 2025, and both DWP and HMRC have added staff to answer calls and deal with correspondence.”

The DWP and HMRC are currently working to improve their digital service so that most people can buy top-ups online in the future.

Steve Webb, a former pensions minister who is now a This is Money columnist, said: ‘For those buying back several years of voluntary national insurance contributions, the sums involved could amount to many thousands of pounds of their hard-earned savings. .

“It’s perfectly reasonable to expect that when money is paid, it will be processed quickly and efficiently and show up quickly in people’s NI data.”

“People are understandably concerned when their money seems to be disappearing into a government ‘black hole’ and they can’t figure out what happened.”

Webb, who is a partner at pension adviser LCP, added: ‘While these amounts are small for the government, they are often life-changing amounts for the individuals involved and should not be left in limbo for months on end as to what is going on. .’

Terry Cooper formerly served in the military and police and was a railroad worker

Terry Cooper formerly served in the military and police and was a railroad worker

HMRC closed the complaint with upgrades still missing from the record

Terry Cooper, who previously served in the military and police and was a railway worker, spent around £4,900 on six years of upgrades in April 2022.

Mr Cooper told us: ‘Since that date the money is no longer on my state pension statement.

‘I called them at least six times to ask what was wrong with my payments.

“Each time I was told that they could not trace the money and that they would ask someone to contact me.

That’s why I didn’t get an answer. I gave them the bank references that were correct.’

Mr Cooper, who lives in Lincolnshire, lodged a complaint with HMRC in April and received an acknowledgment of receipt and then a notice that it was under investigation.

But he heard nothing further until he checked his NI records in June and found that his complaint had been marked as complete, but his upgrades had still not been added.

After This is Money intervened, HMRC contacted Mr Cooper and apologized for not processing his payments, which had gone to the wrong account, and for wrongly terminating his complaint.

Mr Cooper told us that HMRC promised to pay him £250 in damages, update his NI records, review his state pension from the age of 66 and pay him any arrears if necessary.

“How long are we waiting?” Saver struggled to buy supplements and then to update his pension

Tracey Stiles bought nearly £4,900 worth of additions in March, but was still waiting for it to show up on her state pension forecast in June.

Ms Stiles, who lives in East Sussex with her husband Roger, says: ‘After a long wait to join, I was able to pay NI contributions for six years to ensure I get a full pension within four years.

“My NI contribution statement still hasn’t been updated and I haven’t received a receipt or confirmation of the payment I made directly.”

Mr Stiles, a retired bank manager, says he and his wife chased the wire transfer with the DWP about half a dozen times but couldn’t get through and got tired of doing so, so he contacted This is Money for staff.

‘How long are we waiting? You never get confirmation that they received it,” he told us.

This is Money contacted HMRC and DWP and learned that Ms Stiles’ payment had been received in March and her NI records had been updated in early June.

Her AOW forecast has been updated and a current version has been released.

> Problem with AOW supplements? E-mail pensionquestions@thisismoney.co.uk

Buy AOW supplement

The DWP and HMRC provided the following tips for buying extra years of waiting to increase your state pension.

– Voluntary contributions do not always increase your state pension. Customers should make sure they benefit before making payments.

– If you are younger than the state pension age, please contact the Future Pension Center to find out if you benefit from voluntary contributions.

– If you have reached state pension age, contact the pension service to find out if you benefit from voluntary contributions.

– To receive a reference number for payments, please contact HMRC.

– When customers use their reference number to make bank transfer payments, their National Insurance details will be updated within a few days.

– If clients send HMRC a check plus details including the reference number, it can take up to eight weeks for this to be reflected in their NI record.

– More information about pay for voluntary contributions can be found here.

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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