Accessing your super
This tax guide provides details on when and how you can access your superannuation plan.
You can access your super:
- When you turn 65 (even if you haven’t retired), or
- When you reach preservation age and retire, or
- Under the transition to retirement rules, while continuing to work.
There are very limited circumstances where you can access your super savings early. These circumstances are mainly related to specific medical conditions or severe financial hardship.
Your preservation age is not the same as your pension age. Your preservation age is the age at which you can access your super if you are retired (or have started a transition to a retirement income stream).
Your preservation age depends on when you were born. You can use this table to work out your preservation age.
Date of birth
Before 1 July 1960
1 July 1960 – 30 June 1961
1 July 1961 – 30 June 1962
1 July 1962 – 30 June 1963
1 July 1963 – 30 June 1964
From 1 July 1964
Super withdrawal options
You can receive your super as a super income stream, super lump sum or a combination of both. The super withdrawal option that you choose may affect the amount of tax you pay.
Super income stream
You receive a super income stream as a series of regular payments from your super fund (paid at least annually). The payments must be made over an identifiable period of time and meet the minimum payment standards.
Super income streams are a popular investment choice for retirees because they help you manage your income and spending. Super income streams are sometimes called pensions or annuities.
Your super income stream will stop:
- When there is no money left in your super account
- Minimum annual payment is not made
- Commutation (when you convert a super income stream into a super lump sum)
- When you die, unless you have a dependant beneficiary who is automatically entitled to receive the income stream.
Super lump sum
If your fund allows it, you may be able to withdraw some or your entire super in a single payment. This payment is called a 'lump sum'.
You may be able to withdraw your super in several lump sums. However, if you set up a regular payment from your super it is considered an income stream.
If you take a lump sum out of your super, the money is no longer considered to be super. If you invest the money, the money that you earn on those investments will not be taxed as super.
Pensions and other benefits
If your super benefits won’t fully support you when you retire, you may also qualify for:
- Government support, such as age and service pensions or benefits
- Tax offsets.
If you’re retired or have turned 60, you may be eligible for some tax offsets. This will depend on your income and assets, where your income comes from, and whether you’re fully or partly retired.
You may be able to claim the:
- Senior Australian tax offset (only available if you’re 65 years and over)
- Mature age worker tax offset
In most cases, when a person dies their super fund will pay their remaining super to the person they have chosen as their nominated beneficiary. Super paid after a person's death is called a 'death benefit'.
You nominate your beneficiary with your super fund. If a deceased person has not nominated a beneficiary, their estate can access their super and distribute it accordingly.
If you are a dependant of the deceased, the death benefit can be paid as either a lump sum or income stream. If you are not a dependant of the deceased, the death benefit must be paid as a lump sum.
Dependants of the deceased
You are a dependant of the deceased if at the time of their death you were:
- Their spouse or de facto spouse, including different or same sex
- A former spouse or de facto spouse, including different or same sex
- A child of the deceased under 18 years old
- In an interdependency relationship with the deceased
- Any other person dependant on the deceased.
An 'interdependency relationship' exists if two people satisfy all of the following:
- Have a close personal relationship
- Live together
- Provide each other with financial support or domestic support and personal care.
How to apply
If you believe that you are the beneficiary of a deceased person's super or are the trustee of a person's estate, you should contact their super fund to let them know that the person has died and ask them to release the person's super.
Early access to your super
There are very limited circumstances when you can access your super savings early. These circumstances are mainly related to specific medical conditions or severe financial hardship.
Be aware that some promoters claim to offer early access to your super savings by transferring your super into a self-managed super fund. These schemes are illegal and heavy penalties apply if you participate.
Access on compassionate grounds
You may be allowed to withdraw some of your super on compassionate grounds. Compassionate grounds include:
- Paying for medical treatment for you or a dependant
- Making a payment on a loan to prevent you from losing your house
- Modifying your home or vehicle for the special needs of you or a dependant because of a severe disability
- Paying for expenses associated with a death, funeral or burial.
The amount of super that you can withdraw on compassionate grounds is limited to what is reasonably needed. It is paid and taxed as a normal super lump sum.
You can apply to the Department of Human Services (DHS) for a release of super on compassionate grounds.
Access due to severe financial hardship
You may be able to withdraw some of your super if you have received eligible government income support payments continuously for 26 weeks and are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses.
A super withdrawal due to severe financial hardship is paid and taxed as a normal super lump sum.
The minimum amount that can be paid is $1,000 and the maximum amount is $10,000. You can only make one withdrawal from your super fund because of severe financial hardship in any 12-month period.
Contact your super fund to request access to your super due to severe financial hardship.
Access due to terminal medical condition
You may be able to access your super if you have a terminal medical condition. Two medical practitioners need to certify that you have a medical condition that is likely to result in your death within 24 months. One of the medical practitioners must be a specialist in an area related to your illness or injury.
Your super must be paid as a lump sum and is tax-free if it is withdrawn within 24 months of the date of certification.
Contact your super fund to request access to your super due to a terminal medical condition. If your fund does not allow access due to a terminal medical condition, you may be able to move your super to a different fund.
Access due to temporary incapacity
You may be able to access your super if you are temporarily unable to work or need to work fewer hours because of a physical or mental medical condition.
You will receive the super in regular payments (income stream) over the time you are unable to work. A super withdrawal due to temporary incapacity is taxed as a normal super income stream.
Contact your super fund to request access to your super due to temporary incapacity.
Access due to permanent incapacity
You may be able to access your super if you are permanently incapacitated. This type of super withdrawal is sometimes called a 'disability super benefit'.
Your fund must be satisfied that you have a permanent physical or mental medical condition that is likely to stop you from ever working again in a job you were qualified to do by education, training or experience.
At least two medical practitioners must certify this for you to receive concessional tax treatment.
You can receive the super as either a lump sum or as regular payments (income stream). A super withdrawal due to permanent incapacity is subject to different tax components.
Contact your super fund to request access to your super because you have a permanent incapacity.
Super less than $200
You may be able to access your super if you change employers and the balance of your super account is less than $200.
Contact your super fund to request access. No tax is payable when accessing super accounts with a balance less than $200.
Temporary residents leaving Australia
Superannuation is money saved during your working life to fund retirement. If you have worked and earned super while you were visiting Australia on a temporary visa, you can apply to have this money paid to you as a Departing Australia Superannuation Payment (DASP).
You will need to meet DASP requirements before applying for super to be paid to you. Super is paid at each quarter of the financial year, so check with your employer that your entire super has been paid to you before submitting your claim.
You can claim your super online or lodge a paper application.
- Are free of charge
- Can be submitted through the DASP online application systemExternal Link for both super funds and ATO-held money.
- Will be verified and confirmed electronically with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for your immigration and visa status.
You can only submit a DASP claim after you have left Australia and your visa has ceased to be in effect (expired or cancelled). However, you can start your DASP application in Australia, while you still have all relevant information handy, save it and submit it after you leave.
Take note of the information you entered in the DASP online application system, as you will need the same details to return to submit your saved application.
Where your claim is a $5000 or more, your super fund will require certified copies of your proof of identification documents. It is much easier to certify documents in Australia, so check with your super fund and prepare the required documentations before you leave.
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