What circumstances permit early access to your super?

What circumstances permit early access to your super?


Early access to your superannuation is permitted under a few limited circumstances outlined by the ATO. In the case that you are experiencing financial struggle and would like to withdraw from your super, be aware of the particular circumstances that will allow you to do so.

Compassionate grounds:

Withdrawing super on compassionate grounds is permitted in the event that you need money to pay for:

  • medical treatment and medical transport for you or your dependant,
  • palliative care for your or your dependant,
  • making a payment on a home loan or council rates so that you don’t lose your home,
  • accommodating a disability for you or your dependant, or
  • expenses associated with the death, funeral or burial of your dependant.

Severe financial hardship:

You can also be permitted access to your superannuation due to severe financial hardship. However, when requesting withdrawals under severe financial hardship, individuals need to contact their super provider for access rather than the ATO.

Both of the following conditions must be met for you to be eligible to withdraw some of your super:

  • you have received eligible government income support payments continuously for 26 weeks, and
  • you are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses.

Superannuation that is withdrawn due to severe financial hardship is taxed as a super lump sum. You can withdraw up to $10,000 from your superannuation (minimum of $1,000) and in the case that you have less than $1,000 in your super funds, you can withdraw up to your remaining balance after tax.

Terminal medical condition:

You may be eligible to request access to your super (approval by your super fund) in the event that you have a terminal medical condition and all the below conditions are met:

  • two registered medical practitioners have certified that you suffer from an illness or injury that is likely to result in death within 24 months of the date of signing the certificate,
  • at least one of the two registered medical practitioners is a specialist in the area related to your illness or injury, and
  • the 24-month certification period has not ended.

Temporary incapacity:

Those who are temporarily unable to work as a result of physical or mental medical conditions may be eligible for early access to superannuation. Access is dependent on the insurance benefits linked to your super account. Any withdrawals you receive are taxed (with regular rates) as a super income stream.

Permanent incapacity:

Permanent incapacity, also known as disability super benefit, allows for early access to super in the case that a permanent physical or mental condition is likely to stop you from ever working again, in a job you were previously qualified for.

Individuals can choose to receive permanent incapacity super withdrawals as regular payments (income stream) or as a lump sum. Unlike temporary incapacity, permanent incapacity super withdrawals are subject to different tax components, based on:

  • the tax-free component of your super funds,
  • the taxable component your super provider has paid tax on (tax element), and
  • the taxable component your super provider has not paid tax on (untaxed element).

To receive concessional tax treatment, your permanent incapacity must be certified by least two medical practitioners.

Keep in mind that the ATO has also announced a new set of rules for the early release of superannuation due to COVID-19. Individuals who have been adversely affected by the pandemic may be eligible to access some of their superannuation early.

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If you believe the matters discussed above are relevant to your business, please contact Darren Smith of our office to discuss further.


Darren is a Chartered Accountant with extensive experience, including working in the big 4 and medium sized firms before becoming a partner of a city based firm in 2000.

He has gained much experience and has extensive knowledge in providing business and taxation advice, superannuation planning, negotiation of sales and acquisitions of businesses and property development. His client base covers a wide range of industry groups.

Darren works with business owners to grow their businesses and create personal wealth within and outside of their business.


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