- Early release of super
- 1. Preservation age or over and retiring
- 2. Preservation age or over and starting a transition-to-retirement income stream (TRIS)
- 3. Age 60 or over and ceasing employment
- 4. Age 65 or over
- 5. Death
- 6. Compassionate grounds
- 7. Severe financial hardship
- 8. Terminal medical condition
- 9. Temporary incapacity
- 10. Permanent incapacity
- 11. The First Home Super Saver Scheme (FHSS)
- 12. Temporary resident departing Australia
- 13. Terminating gainful employment with a super balance less than $200
- The bottom line
There are multiple ways that you can legally access your superannuation under Australian legislation. These are known as conditions of release.
The five most common conditions of release are:
- Being over preservation age and retiring
- Being over preservation age and starting a transition-to-retirement income stream (TRIS)
- Being 60 or over and ceasing an employment arrangement
- Being 65 or over
Early release of super
There are eight additional conditions of release that will allow you to access your super early if you meet strict eligibility criteria:
- On compassionate grounds
- If you’re suffering severe financial hardship
- If you’re diagnosed with a terminal medical condition
- If you’re temporarily incapacitated
- If you’re permanently incapacitated
- Through the First Home Super Saver Scheme
- If you’re a temporary resident departing Australia
- If you terminate gainful employment with less than $200 in your super account
We’ll look at each of these conditions of release in more detail in this article.
1. Preservation age or over and retiring
Your preservation age is between the ages of 55 and 60, depending on your date of birth.
- If you were born before 1 July 1960, your preservation age is 55
- If you were born between 1 July 1960 and 30 June 1961, your preservation age is 56
- If you were born between 1 July 1961 and 30 June 1962, your preservation age is 57.
- If you were born between 1 July 1962 and 30 June 1963, your preservation age is 58
- If you were born between 1 July 1963 and 30 June 1964, your preservation age is 59
- If you were born on or after 1 July 1964, your preservation age is 60
Once you’ve reached your preservation age and you retire from the workforce, you can access your super.
However, if you access your super prior to turning 60, you may have to pay tax on any payments you receive, regardless of the type of payment you get (i.e. lump sum or pension). The amount of tax you’ll have to pay depends on whether your payment contains a taxable component, a tax-free component, or a combination of both.
Learn more about accessing your super by reaching preservation age and retiring.
2. Preservation age or over and starting a transition-to-retirement income stream (TRIS)
If you reach your preservation age (see above), you can start a transition-to-retirement income stream (TRIS). This is a superannuation pension stream that you can draw while you’re still working. It can be a way to scale back your working hours and plan effectively for your retirement.
For example, you can work less hours or salary sacrifice into super to save tax, while using your TRIS to supplement your salary so you can maintain your lifestyle.
Learn more about starting a TRIS.
3. Age 60 or over and ceasing employment
You can access your super if you’re aged 60 and over and you cease an employment arrangement, even if you subsequently get another job with another employer. As mentioned earlier, super payments are generally tax-free once you turn 60.
Learn more about accessing your super by reaching age 60 and ceasing employment.
4. Age 65 or over
You can access your super if you’re aged 65 or over, even if you haven’t retired. Learn more about accessing your super at age 65 or over.
Your dependants or beneficiaries will be entitled to receive your super upon your death. If the recipients are your dependants (e.g. a spouse or child under the age of 18), your super balance can be paid either as a lump sum or an income stream.
If your beneficiary (or beneficiaries) are not your dependants, the payments must be made as lump sums.
Lump sum payments are tax-free. Tax may be payable on income streams, depending on whether they have a taxable component, a tax-free component, or a combination of both.
Learn more about superannuation death benefits.
6. Compassionate grounds
Accessing super early on compassionate grounds is possible under Australian law, provided that you meet strict eligibility conditions and your super fund allows it. If you’re approved to access some of your super early on compassionate grounds, the amount is paid and taxed as a lump sum.
Compassionate grounds can include the need to:
- Pay for your own medical treatment or transport (or for the treatment or transport of one of your dependants, e.g. a spouse or child)
- Make a mortgage or council rates payment to prevent you from losing your home
- Pay expenses to accommodate yourself or a dependant with a severe disability
- Pay for the palliative care of yourself or a dependent
- Pay for the death, funeral or burial expenses of a dependant
In addition, the government is currently considering extending the compassionate grounds early release provisions to include:
- Assisting the recovery of domestic violence victims
- Dental treatment for life-threatening conditions, or those that cause chronic or acute pain
If you’re approved to access some of your super early on compassionate grounds, the amount is paid and taxed as a lump sum.
Learn more about the early release of super on compassionate grounds.
7. Severe financial hardship
Accessing super early due to severe financial hardship is also possible under Australian law, provided that you meet strict eligibility conditions and your super fund allows it.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will consider you to be in severe financial hardship if you meet the following three criteria:
- You have received government welfare payments from the Department of Human Services (DHS) for at least 26 consecutive weeks (with the exception of ABSTUDY, Austudy or Youth Allowance student payments)
- You are still receiving those payments when you apply for the early release
- You are unable to pay your reasonable and immediate family living expenses
In addition, the government is currently considering extending the severe financial hardship early release provisions to include multiple payments in cases of family and domestic violence, rather than a single payment.
If you’re approved to access some of your super early due to severe financial hardship, the amount is paid and taxed as a lump sum.
Learn more about the early release of super due to severe financial hardship.
8. Terminal medical condition
Under Australian super law, you have a terminal medical condition when two medical practitioners have certified that you have an illness or injury that will result in your death within 24 months of the date of the certificate. At least one of these medical practitioners must be a specialist in the area of your terminal illness or injury.
You can choose to access all or some of your super due to being diagnosed with a terminal illness, subject to the rules of your fund. There are no legal restrictions on the amount you can access, but withdrawals must be taken as tax-free lump sums.
Learn more about early release of super due to a terminal medical condition.
9. Temporary incapacity
You can access super benefits early due to temporary incapacity under Australian law, provided that the benefits come from specific sources.
You’re temporarily incapacitated according to Australian super legislation if either physical or mental ill-health issues cause you to temporarily:
- be unable to work at all, or
- work less hours than you normally would.
If you’re temporarily incapacitated and you need to supplement your income via your super, you may be able to access two potential benefits:
- income protection insurance benefits, or
- any voluntary employer-funded benefits that you may have in your super fund.
This includes any super contributions made by your employer that are in excess of the 9.5% compulsory superannuation guarantee contributions that they are required to make on your behalf.
Both of these potential benefits must be paid as a taxable income stream. They cannot be converted to a lump sum.
Learn more about the early release of super due to being temporarily incapacitated.
10. Permanent incapacity
You can access your super benefits early due to permanent incapacity under Australian law, provided you meet the eligibility conditions.
You’re permanently incapacitated according to Australian super legislation if two medical practitioners certify that you have physical or mental ill-health issues that are likely to stop you from ever working again in the job you’re qualified to do.
If you’re permanently incapacitated you can access:
- any total and permanent disablement (TPD) insurance benefits that you may have in your super fund (either as a lump sum or income stream), and/or
- any other super benefits you have accumulated. There are no restrictions on the amount of your own benefits that you can access, and you can access them either as lump sum or as a regular income stream of payments.
If the payments you receive via your super fund are TPD insurance benefits, these payments are tax-free.
However, if you’re accessing permanent incapacity benefits from your super fund that aren’t TPD insurance payments, these payments are taxable.
Learn more about the early release of super due to permanent incapacity.
11. The First Home Super Saver Scheme (FHSS)
The First Home Super saver Scheme (FHSS) is a recently introduced government scheme aimed at encouraging people to save money for a deposit on their first home in the tax-friendly super environment. Super contributions and fund earnings are taxed at the concessional rate of 15% in Australia.
Under the conditions of the Scheme, eligible Australians can voluntarily contribute up to $15,000 in any one year and up to a maximum of $30,000 across all years to their super fund. They can later withdraw these funds to buy their first home, provided they are going to live in it (i.e. it’s not an investment property).
Learn more about the FHSS scheme.
12. Temporary resident departing Australia
The Departing Australia superannuation payment (DASP) is available to departed temporary residents who worked and earned super in Australia. It is not available for permanent Australian residents, nor for Australian and New Zealand citizens.
In addition to having accumulated super while working as a temporary resident in Australia:
- your temporary visa to work in Australia must have expired, and
- you must have left Australia.
The Australian tax payable on a DASP depends on three factors:
- Whether you have a working holiday maker visa or another type of visa that enables you to work in Australia.
- Whether your DASP contains taxable and non-taxable (tax-free) components.
- Whether the taxable component of your DASP contains taxed and untaxed elements.
Learn more about about the DASP.
13. Terminating gainful employment with a super balance less than $200
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. This is because fees may erode the balance of your account over time if you don’t make any further contributions.
Learn more about accessing your super when you have a fund balance of less than $200.
To legally access your super in Australia you must satisfy a condition of release. Different conditions of release have different payment conditions and tax implications.
The information contained in this article is general in nature. Accessing your super is an important financial decision and it’s best to seek independent professional advice based on your individual financial needs and circumstances.