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National Insurance and tax

If you're a student and you have a job, you'll have to pay National Insurance and Income Tax if you earn over a certain amount within a tax year.

National Insurance

Anyone who works in the UK needs a National Insurance (NI) number, and may be liable to pay NI (Social Security) contributions. These contributions pay for your pension and other benefits. Your NI number is used as a reference for certain government departments throughout your working life in the UK.

It will look something like this AB 12 34 56 C (this is an example only).

Your employer uses your NI number to process deductions for tax and NI from your pay.

UK citizens

UK citizens who have always lived in the UK should automatically be given a NI number on their 16th birthday.

Non UK citizens

Most international students are eligible to work part time while studying in the UK. If you are not sure of your eligibility, please talk to the International Student Advisory Centre (ISAC).

You can start work while you wait for your NI application to be processed and the employer can process your wages using a code of their choice.

You may also apply if you can prove that you have been actively seeking work. Applications may take a few weeks to be processed.

How do I apply for a NI number as an international student?

Call the National Insurance Number Allocation Service on 0845 600 0643. The phone lines can be very busy, so you may have to keep trying.

If you are an international student, let them know that you need a NI number for work purposes and you would like to book an application interview (usually with your local Jobcentre Plus). You will be provided with an appointment time to visit their nearest office to discuss your application.

What do I need to take to the interview?

You will need to take the following documents with you:

  • your passport;
  • confirmation of your student status (such as your university student identification card or a letter from your faculty office);
  • two original documents as proof of your UK accommodation address (such as bank account, credit card, mobile phone, gas/electricity statements, or your tenancy agreement); and
  • an offer of employment letter from your employer, or failing this, any documents/evidence that will confirm you have been looking for work.

What happens at the interview?

You will be asked some very straightforward questions at the appointment as to why you want a NI number, and providing the NI number office are satisfied you have been looking for work they will submit an application for a NI number on your behalf.

You can start working and get paid without one, but you must apply for one as soon as you have a job.

Income tax

In the tax year 2013/14 every person working in the UK can earn up to £9,440 without being taxed. This is called your personal allowance. In order to ensure that you are not taxed on your personal allowance from your earnings you must make a declaration to the Inland Revenue (Tax Office) by completing one of these tax forms for every job that you do:

  • Form P46 (PDF) – for any part time or temporary work during the semester or in the vacations
  • Form P38(S) (PDF) – if you only work in the vacation(s)

These forms should be available directly from your employer or your local tax office.

Once you finish a job, you should receive a P45 form which will give you a summary of what you have earned. If you have one of these, you should submit this to your new employer so they can put you on the correct tax code. If you don't receive one automatically, request it directly from your employer.

The tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April. This is the period for which the Inland Revenue assesses whether your earnings have exceeded your personal allowance.

Paid too much tax?

If you have paid tax but your total earnings were below your personal allowance, you can claim the overpayment back. You may have been charged 'emergency tax' even if you complete a P46 or P38(S) tax form. If you believe that you have paid too much tax you should contact the Inland Revenue for advice about claiming your tax back. You may not get the tax back immediately.

Contact the Tax Enquiry Centre on 0845 302 1484 (local call rates) to provide you with your local tax district telephone number by using the first three digits of your PAYE reference code (you will find this on your payslips). You will need to have this information available when you call.

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