Accountants and Your Family Business

Accessing Your Superannuation Early: Is It Possible?

It doesn't matter if you're 16 or 60. If you're working, you're contributing to your superannuation. Of course, you probably have a more pragmatic view of your super when you're closer to retirement. You are planning for a life where you will no longer be working, and that money takes on a greater significance - you will need it to continue living the quality of life to which you've become accustomed. If you're younger and are planning to permanently leave Australia, those super funds can be awfully tempting. In the majority of cases, however, it is simply not possible to access your super early, and this is a rule that exists in order to guarantee a high quality of life once you retire. Having said that, some people might be eligible to access their super early, and to use those funds for whatever they see fit. Are you one of these people? And if so, how do you access your super early?

Limited Allowances for Early Release

Australian citizens and permanent residents are generally not able to access their super until they reach preservation age. There are limited circumstances when your super can be released early, but these are strictly controlled. You might be able to get a full or partial payout under conditions such as:

  • Compassionate grounds. This can include needing to pay for urgent medical care, financial hardship after the death of a partner or family member, or no longer being able to work after an accident or disability.
  • Severe financial hardship. This is essentially when you have no other way of obtaining an income and is subject to stringent conditions set by your super fund.
  • Terminal illness. The funds can be used to pay for palliative care for yourself or a dependent. 

New Zealand Citizens 

If you're one of the 650,000 New Zealanders living in Australia, you're able to move your superannuation back to your home country, where different laws for withdrawal apply. This has only been allowed as of 1 July 2013 and allows New Zealand citizens to move their super to New Zealand and Australians in New Zealand to move their super in the other direction. New Zealand has less stringent laws than Australia when it comes to super, and if your funds have been moved to New Zealand and you then emigrate from the country (to a country other than Australia), you can withdraw your funds after one year.

Temporary Australian Residents

If you are only in Australia as a temporary resident, you are able to withdraw your super after you've left the country. This only applies if you were in Australia on a temporary visa, and if that visa has now expired. Contact your super fund to arrange for the amount to be transferred to an overseas account. If more than six months have passed since you've left Australia, the amount will be transferred to the Australian Tax Office, although you are still able to withdraw the funds.

The super preservation age exists for a reason, but it  may not apply to your situation. For more information, contact a local accounting or tax company that works with superannuation funds.