Accessing Your Super Early

|by Michael Courtin|Private Advisory Services

There are very limited circumstances when you can access your super earlier other than reaching a certain age and retiring. The limited circumstances mainly relate to specific medical conditions, severe financial hardship or on compassionate grounds. As a part of the stimulus packages, the federal government announced that individuals that are adversely affected by COVID-19 can apply for an early release of their super.

Access due to COVID-19

Individuals affected by COVID-19 can access up to $10,000 of their super in 2019–20 and a further $10,000 in 2020–21. Individuals do not need to pay tax on amounts released and will not need to include it in their income tax return.

To apply for early release, you must satisfy any one or more of the following requirements:

  • Are unemployed.
  • Are eligible to receive a job seeker payment, youth allowance for jobseekers, parenting payment (which includes the single and partnered payments), special benefit, or farm household allowance

On or after 1 January 2020, either:

  • Have been made redundant; or
  • Have had working hours were reduced by 20% or more (including to zero); or
  • If you are a sole trader, your business was suspended or there was a reduction in turnover of 20% or more.

Access on compassionate grounds

You may be allowed to withdraw some of your super on compassionate grounds for unpaid expenses. Examples of these types of expenses 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 of a dependant.

The amount is paid and taxed as a normal super lump sum. The tax rates depend upon various factors including age and the components of the super lump sum. Your super provider will automatically deduct the tax from your super account.

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.

The minimum amount that can be paid is $1,000 (unless your super balance is less than $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.

A super withdrawal due to severe financial hardship is paid and taxed as a super lump sum. There are no cashing restrictions under severe financial hardship if you have reached your preservation age plus 39 weeks and you were not gainfully employed on a full-time or part-time basis at the time of application.

Access due to temporary incapacity

You may be able to access your super if you are temporarily unable to work or need to work less hours because of a physical or mental medical condition. This option is generally used to release insurance benefits from a super fund.

Any such payout from a super fund is made 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.

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.

Access due to terminal medical condition

You may be able to access your super if you have a terminal medical condition. This will generally be accepted as existing if:

  • two registered medical practitioners have certified, jointly or separately, that you suffer from an illness, or have an injury, that is likely to result in death within a period (certification period) that ends no more than 24 months after the date of the certification
  • at least one of the registered medical practitioners is a specialist practising in an area related to your illness or injury
  • the certification period for each of the certificates has not ended.

Super funds are required to make these payments as a lump sum, which is tax-free if you withdraw it within 24 months of certification.

Super less than $200

You may be able to access your super if your employment is terminated and the balance of your super account is less than $200, or if you have formerly lost super held by a super fund or by the ATO that is less than $200. No tax is payable when accessing super accounts with a balance less than $200.

Implications of accessing your super early

Please note that accessing your super early will affect your super balance and may affect your future retirement income. Withdrawing super may also affect your income protection insurance and life / total permanent disability insurance cover. Insurance may not be available on accounts that have a low balance. You should consider whether you need to seek financial advice before submitting your application for early release of super.

If you have questions on any of the above, or other matters relating to your tax or financial affairs, please do not hesitate to contact our office on (07) 5504 5700 to speak to one of our trusted advisors.

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