Unrestricted access to super, sometimes

Q: I have been a member of my super fund from about 1993. I see from your 14 legal ways to withdraw your super benefits article, that I may be able to access my restricted benefit. You write: “If you’ve been a member of a super fund since before 1 July 1999, you can cash your ‘restricted non-preserved benefit’ (certain benefits accumulated up to 30 June 1999) only when you cease employment with your employer. A restricted benefit is a special category of super benefit that Australians who were super fund members before 1 July 1999 may hold” Does this mean I can access my super?

A: The term ‘restricted benefit’ is a technical term to describe certain benefits that can be accessed when an individual ceases an employment arrangement.

Briefly, there are two categories of superannuation benefits – ‘preserved’ and ‘non-preserved’. The ‘non-preserved benefits’ are then split into, ‘restricted non-preserved’, and ‘unrestricted non-preserved’.

Unless you were a member of a super fund before July 1999, your super benefits will be preserved, and cannot be accessed until you satisfy a condition of release: see SuperGuide article Accessing super early: 14 legal ways to withdraw your super benefits.

If you were a member of a super fund before July 1999, then, whether you have non-preserved benefits within your super fund, depends on some complicated rules. Generally, any Superannuation Guarantee contributions made since July 1992 are preserved, although some made before July 1994 may not be preserved. If you have made any salary sacrificed contributions before July 1999, then some may be non-preserved depending on the arrangement that was in place.

Tip: The easiest way to check whether you have non-preserved benefits is to look at your latest member statement from your super fund. The statement should state whether you have any non-preserved benefits. If you can’t locate your member statement then contact your super fund and ask them directly.

Now, I’m going to add one more complication. If you do have restricted non-preserved benefits, you can access these benefits when you resign from an employment arrangement. If you have had restricted non-preserved benefits in the past, and ceased employment, then those restricted benefits become unrestricted and can be accessed at any time. You need to check with your super fund whether you have any unrestricted non-preserved benefits.

If you have a portion of your super benefits as ‘unrestricted non-preserved’ benefits, then you can apply to withdraw them from your super fund (without satisfying any other condition of release), less any benefits tax payable.

Most Australians have preserved superannuation benefits, which means the benefits cannot be withdrawn until the fund member reaches preservation age and retires. For more information on preservation age see SuperGuide article Accessing super: What is my preservation age? In certain circumstances, specific exceptions may apply to this general access rule (for more information on these exceptions, see SuperGuide article Accessing super early: 14 legal ways to withdraw your super benefits).


  1. Hi Trish,
    I have currently in my SMSF 17K in unrestricted non-preserved cash my min TRIP pention is 14K I am also on a TRIP pention, and paying about 30k salery sacrifice into my super, my age is 57. Can i stop my TRIP pension and instead draw down my unrestricted non-preserved money.Will i have to pay tax on this money. Thanks

  2. I’d just like to add, unrestricted non-preserved balances can be used to start a pension at any age, working or not working. The ATO have confirmed this (providing your funds governing rules allow it). See SIS reg 6.20;
    Superannuation Industry Supervision SIS Regulations 1994
    6.20 Voluntary cashing of unrestricted non-preserved benefits in
    regulated superannuation funds
    (1) A member‘s unrestricted non-preserved benefits in a regulated
    superannuation fund may be cashed at any time.
    (2) The amount of unrestricted non-preserved benefits that may be
    cashed in accordance with subregulation (1) is the whole or part of
    the member‘s unrestricted non-preserved benefits in the fund.
    (3) Subject to subregulation (4), the form in which unrestricted
    non-preserved benefits may be cashed under this regulation is,
    unless the cashing occurs in consequence of the death of the
    member, any one or more of the following forms:
    (a) one or more lump sums;
    (b) one or more pensions;
    (c) the purchase of one or more annuities.
    Note: For the cashing requirement applying on the death of the member, see
    regulation 6.21.
    (4) A lump sum mentioned in paragraph (3)(a) must be payable not
    later than the time for the payment of a lump sum mentioned in
    paragraph 6.21(2)(a).

  3. Hi,
    I have super funds from 1991 to current.
    Can I acess my super from 1991 to 1999, under the pre 1999 and left employment rule?
    My super fund says I can only take out salary sacrifice contributions within this time frame and not employer contributions?
    Thank you.

  4. Huw Grossmith says:

    I am currently o/s from Australia and trying to access my super. It is possible I have some in non preserved accounts as I started paying my own long before the original 3% came in to effect. As for the rest well…… (I have super in 3 or 4 different accounts).

    Advice that leaving Australia permanently qualifies one to withdraw super is clearly wrong. Finding out what leaving permanently means is an altogether different problem. Immigration can not tell me if I lose my passport I have to go to DFAT. With respect to Super there appears to be at least 3 different government departments involved including the tax thief, DHS and one other.

    Similarly, because I am not yet 55, renouncing my citizenship (and therefore needing a visa to go back to Australia) also may not allow me to withdraw the Super I have paid over many a long year – if I can’t go back to Aussie without a visa, and getting one to retire there without shedloads of cash is impossible, why should I not be able to access what is effectively my money? It’s not even possible to roll it out to a similar fund elsewhere yet the Aussie government always insists others who have pension or super benefits in another nation roll theirs in or claim on it before paying an Australian pension. I doubt I’d even qualify, despite paying the taxes, for an Australian pension based on what I have invested in Super!

    Australia also needs to learn some lessons from nations like Malaysia where drawing down is possible and while the rules are stringent they are far from near impossible. As the bank ad’s say its my money! I want it back so I can provide for myself and family somewhere else…. now and in the long term too. Can anyone tell me the truth about how to do this?

  5. Peter Johnstone says:

    Trish – Great website and service you offer. My wife, age 49 and I, age 53, have a SMSF. If I depart Australia permanently, then return as a Temporary Resident, and then depart Australia again when I am between my Preservation Age and Age 60, am I able to withdraw my super as a lump sum on the second departure. Also, could you indicate what tax may be payable?

  6. i was born on 3rd august 1946 and intend working for the rest of my life as i enjoy in … is it true that i will be able to have unrestricted access to my super on 4th august 2010? i have tried asking the super funds concerned, i don’t think english is their first language – eg i ask a question couched in miles per hour and they answer in furlongs per fortnight … i’m confused.


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