Early access to superannuation. What you need to be aware of.

Accessing your super unlawfully can have far reaching financial and legal consequences significantly outweighing the benefits of early withdrawal.

When can you legally access your super

Generally, you can only access your super when you:

  • Reach preservation age and retire
  • Turn 65 even if you’re still working

There are very limited circumstances where you can legally access your super early. Eligibility requirements often relate to specific expenses. It is illegal to access your super for any reason other than when it is allowed by the superannuation law.

Consequences of illegally access super

Illegally accessing your super will cost you a lot more than the super you withdraw. You may face significant financial consequences and lose your retirement savings.

Any amount you illegally access will be included as income in your tax return, even if you return it to the fund. This means you may pay:

  • Additional income tax
  • Tax shortfall penalties
  • Interest

If you’ve illegally accessed your super you can’t return it back into your fund. Any attempt to do so will be considered a new contribution.

If you are an SMSF trustee and you illegally release benefits to a member who has not met a condition of release, you may be liable for administrative penalties.

You may also be disqualified as an SMSF trustee. If disqualified:

  • You cannot operate as a trustee of an SMSF
  • Your name will be published in both the Commonwealth Government Notices Gazette and our trustee disqualification register

This means your disqualification will be on public record. This can have an adverse impact on you professionally, personally or financially.

If you are ever unsure whether you are eligible to withdraw from your superannuation, please contact us or your super provider.

When you can access your super early

You can access your super early in very limited circumstances, including to pay certain expenses on compassionate grounds, as well as terminal illness, incapacity and sever financial hardship.

Access on compassionate grounds

You may be eligible to withdraw your super on compassionate grounds to pay for certain expenses, including:

  • Medical treatment for you or your dependant
  • Modifications to your home or vehicle to accommodate special needs arising from a severe disability
  • Palliative care for you or your dependant
  • Preventative foreclosure or forced sale of your home

For release on these grounds, eligibility criteria must be met, and applications made to the ATO.

Access due to severe financial hardship

You may be able to withdraw some of your super if you are experiencing severe financial hardship. Access on grounds of severe financial hardship is not administered by the ATO by rather buy your super provider.

Eligibility is dependant on your age, how long you have received eligible government income support payments, and whether you can meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses.

Access due to temporary incapacity

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

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.


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Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and should not be relied on as advice. It does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. You need to consider your financial situation and needs and seek professional advice before making any decisions based on this information.