There are a few ways that you can access your superannuation prior to retirement, we cover most of these. Before exploring options to access your super, it is important to consider both the tax implications and whether you have the right to access your superannuation early.
Super balance under $200
You can access your preserved benefit if you leave a job where your employer was contributing to your fund on your behalf, and the preserved superannuation benefit is less than $200.
Note: The super laws also allow a super benefit that is less than $200 to be withdrawn where, the super account is considered to be owned by a lost member, the account is subsequently found by the fund member, and the value of the super benefit when released is less than $200.
Severe financial hardship
If you fall on hard times, you may be able to get some of your superannuation back if you satisfy the special conditions that constitute the government’s view of ‘severe financial hardship’. The trustee of your fund may give you access to a portion of your benefit, subject to certain conditions. In general terms, here are the rules:
- You have been receiving Commonwealth Government income support, for example, unemployment benefits, for at least 26 weeks, continuously, and the trustee of your super fund is satisfied that you can’t meet immediate reasonable family expenses. Any payment is for the purposes of meeting everyday living expenses and can be one payment of no more than $10,000 (including tax) in any 12-month period.
- If you have reached your preservation age (from age 55 to 60, depending on date of birth), you may be able to receive your entire superannuation benefit provided that you’ve been in receipt of government income support for at least 39 weeks.
Before you retire, your super fund can release, part or all of your preserved benefits if you’re suffering a life-threatening illness, or trying to prevent the bank selling your home because of overdue loan repayments. You can also apply for early release of superannuation on compassionate grounds to pay for funeral or medical expenses, or palliative care. If you, or one of your dependants, is severely disabled, you can apply to access your super if this disability requires your home or car to be modified due to the disability.
First, contact your fund to find out whether it permits early release of any preserved benefits. If your fund does permit this type of early access, you can then apply to the Department of Human Services (www.humanservices.gov.au) for early release of your preserved benefit on compassionate grounds.
Terminal medical condition
If you suffer from a terminal medical condition as defined by the super laws, you will be able to access your super benefits early. In addition, you won’t have to pay any benefits tax on those benefits. ‘Terminal medical condition’ has a specific definition, as defined in the super laws. A “terminal medical condition exists in relation to a person at a particular person if the following circumstances exist:
- Two registered medical practitioners have certified jointly or separately, that the person suffers from an illness, or has incurred an injury, that is likely to result in the death of the person within a period (the ‘certification period’) that ends not more than 24 months after the date of the certification;
- At least one of the registered medical practitioners is a specialist practising in an area related to the illness or injury suffered by the person; and
- For each of the certificates, the certification period has not ended.