Unrestricted access to super, sometimes

Q: I left Australia in 2001, but I was part of a super fund from about 1993/4. I see from your 14 legal reasons to cash your super article, that I may be able to access my restricted benefit. You write: “Cease employment and have certain pre-1999 super benefits. If you’ve been a member of a super fund since before 1 July 1999, you can cash your ‘restricted benefit’ only when you cease employment with your employer”. Does this mean I can access my super? Also I am in the early stages of changing my citizenship to British  - what are the super rules governing ex-Australians and their super fund.

A: You have a couple of questions here, but that’s not surprising considering you have left Australia and are changing citizenship.

1. Can I access my restricted benefit?

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 reasons to cash your super.

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, less any benefits tax payable.

2. I am taking out UK citizenship. Can I access my super?

In the past, the fact that an individual was leaving Australia permanently was an acceptable condition of release. In the past, if you supplied sufficient evidence, such as permanent residence in another country, job details and even citizenship application, then it was possible to access a super benefit before retirement. This condition of release no longer applies.

The short answer to your second question is ‘no’: for Australian citizens leaving the country permanently, it is not possible to access super benefits early due to permanent departure from Australia. I explain the access rules for temporary residents leaving Australia in the article Accessing super early: Temporary resident of Australia.

© Copyright Trish Power 2009-2014

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Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

    thanks
    marion

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