I lived and worked in Germany for 17years, now i have returned to the UK. I have obtained a U1 form to confirm my state contributions to the German system, can this be used to fill the gaps in my National insurance record in the UK?
Disclaimer: I am neither a tax-expert nor a lawyer. You should probably contact HMRC to discuss the situation.
I'll go with possibly not, but you possibly may be able to claim a German pension to top-up your UK one.
This HMRC page includes:
If you work for an employer in the EEA
You’ll normally pay social security contributions in the EEA country you work in instead of National Insurance. This means:
you’ll be covered by that country’s social security laws and may be entitled to benefits there
your entitlement to benefits in the UK (for example State Pension) may be affected as there’ll be a gap in your National Insurance contributions
You may still get free or reduced cost medical treatment in the country where you’re working.
As Germany is in the EEA, I take this to mean that you were covered by Germany's equivalent of National Insurance while you were there, but by being absent, and not having paid NI here, your State Pension could be affected.
If contributions made abroad could be credited to your UK NI account, I would have expected that to be mentioned (although the fact that it isn't mentioned isn't a guarantee that they can't be).
However, this HMRC page seems to suggest that you may effectively be able to claim a state pension from Germany for the period worked there:
If you live or work in another country, you might be able to contribute towards that country’s State Pension scheme.
If you’ve lived or worked in another country in the past, you might be eligible for that country’s state pension and a UK State Pension.
You only need to claim your state pension in the last country where you lived or worked. Your claim will cover all EEA countries (including the UK) and Switzerland. You don’t need to claim for each country separately.
So while you perhaps cannot use the German contributions to "fill the hole" in your UK record, you may be able to get a top-up to your state pension.
Finally, if you wanted to manually "top up" your National Insurance contributions, this HMRC page states:
You can usually pay voluntary contributions for the past 6 years. The deadline is 5 April each year.
You have until 5 April 2018 to make up for gaps for the tax year 2011 to 2012.
You can sometimes pay for gaps from more than 6 years ago, depending on your age.
It then goes on to list a number of age-related extensions to the standard time-limit.
Seventeen missing years may not be a problem. You need 35 years for a full pension, so if you started contributing at 16 and have a state pension age of 68 or older (i.e. you are currently aged under about 47), you can afford to have exactly seventeen years missing.