You can access your super benefits early under Australian law if you have a fund balance of less than $200 and your employment has been terminated – whether you lose your job or you quit it.
Normally you can only access your super once you’ve reached your preservation age and met a condition of release (such as retiring from the workforce or turning 65). Your preservation age is between the ages of 55 and 60, depending on your date of birth.
However, these super release conditions can be waived for fund balances less than $200. The main reason for this is that your low balance is likely to be whittled away over by administration fees.
People who work few hours in casual jobs with multiple employers may find themselves in this situation, because employers are only legally required to contribute 9.5% of your earnings into a super fund if you earn $450 per month in gross wages. This is known as the Superannuation Guarantee (SG).
How do you apply for early release of a super fund which has a balance of less than $200?
You can contact your super fund (or the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) if they have your funds). Your super fund may have transferred your super balance to the ATO in any of the following circumstances:
- If there has been no activity on your super account for 12 months and they have been unable to contact you.
- If you’re a temporary resident of Australia who has left the country for more than six months.
- If you no longer have a current Australian visa.
- If you have not claimed your Departing Australia superannuation payment (DASP) (only available to temporary residents)
You can check online if the ATO is holding any of your super via your myGov account.
Whether you’re applying to your super fund or to the ATO for the early release of balances less than $200, you’ll generally need to provide the following supporting documentation:
- A letter from your employer confirming that your employment has been terminated (or an Employment Separation Certificate).
- Your payment summary from the relevant employer (including details of any termination payment that you may have received when your employment ceased).
No tax is payable on any payments you receive due to your super fund balance being less than $200.
If you do have multiple super accounts with balances of less than $200, you’re entitled to withdraw the balance of each one. However, it’s important to also consider consolidating these amounts into a single super fund (i.e. rollover the funds) so that you can grow your superannuation nest egg. Even small amounts can make a big difference if you add them when you are young due to the magic of compound interest.
For more information on locating and combining all your super accounts, see SuperGuide article The easy way to find and consolidate your lost super.
Besides the situation where you have less than $200 in your employer’s super fund when your employment is terminated, other special circumstances where you can access some (or all) of your super before you reach your preservation age include:
- If you become permanently or temporarily incapacitated.
- If you’re suffering severe financial hardship or from a terminal medical condition.
- On compassionate grounds.
To learn all the ways you can access your super, see SuperGuide article Accessing super early: 14 legal ways to withdraw your super benefits.
The information contained in this article is general in nature.