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Under what circumstances can I access money from my Super fund before retirement age?


Under what circumstances can I access money from my Super fund before retirement age?

Most working Australians will have a Superannuation account where money is deposited by their employer (and sometimes directly by the worker) on a regular basis. Ordinarily moneys accumulated in your super fund will not be accessible by you until retirement age (preservation age).

However, there are some circumstances where you can access your super fund moneys prior to retirement age.

Permanent Incapacity Withdrawals

When you cease work before retirement (or preservation) age due to illness or injury, you can apply to have your superannuation monies released on grounds of Permanent Incapacity. The law says that superannuation money can be released early on the grounds of permanent incapacity if the superannuation fund is reasonably satisfied that you are unlikely to engage in gainful employment within your education, training or experience again because of ill-health (physical or mental).

The superannuation fund will usually require that you provide medical certificates from two different doctors (ideally one GP and one specialist) which say that you are unlikely, because of illness or injury, to return to work that you are reasonably qualified/suitable for because of education, training or experience.

Usually, the tax payable on permanent incapacity withdrawals is up to 22% and the precise calculation of the tax payable will depend on how old you are when you withdraw the money. Younger people usually pay a lower rate of tax. There is no limit on how much of your superannuation can be withdrawn on permanent incapacity grounds at a time.

In many cases, if you are able to withdraw your money because of permanent incapacity, you may also be able to access any Total and Permanent Disability (“TPD”) or Income Protection/Salary Continuance insurance benefits that were held in your superannuation account when you last worked.

Many working people pay for TPD or other disability insurance benefits without realising. If you have ceased work due to injury or illness, you should make sure you claim any TPD or income protection benefits. We check the insurance in people’s superannuation accounts for free and tell them if they have, or have had, TPD or other insurance benefits when they last worked. If you are unsure, get in touch.

Terminal Illness

If you are diagnosed with a terminal illness and your doctors tell you that you have less than 24 months to live, you can usually access your superannuation early. There is no limit on the amount that can be claimed, and the withdrawal is usually tax free.

The requirements differ from superannuation fund to superannuation fund however, you must usually provide the fund with two medical certificates from two different doctors (usually one specialist and one GP) certifying that you have less than 24 months to live.

We recommend that you be careful when withdrawing your superannuation money on terminal illness grounds as sometimes you will also be able to claim terminal illness insurance benefits (which is usually the early payment of your death insurance benefit). Care should be taken as sometimes the terminal illness insurance benefit requirements differ from the terminal illness superannuation withdrawal requirement and accessing superannuation monies early on terminal illness grounds can impact your terminal illness insurance claim.  This can get tricky and it’s important that you seek advice from someone experienced in superannuation before accessing your money early.

Financial Hardship Withdrawals

Those that are in financial hardship can apply to withdraw their superannuation money on the grounds of financial hardship.  In most cases, where a superannuation fund allows access to superannuation money on financial hardship grounds, a letter from Centrelink which says that you have been on Centrelink payments for more than 26 weeks and some kind of documentation which shows that you are unable to meet your household expenses is required.

Not all superannuation funds allow their members to access their superannuation money early on financial hardship grounds. If your fund will not agree, there may be little that can be done. Nonetheless, we recommend that you lodge a complaint with the fund’s internal complaint department. Although, you may need to consider other options.

If the reason that you are in financial hardship is related to injury or illness, you may decide to claim on your total and permanent disability or income protection instead of withdrawing your super money on financial hardship (or other) grounds. If injury or illness is a factor which is contributing to your financial hardship, please get in touch for a free superannuation insurance check.

Usually, you can only access $10,000 under each financial hardship withdrawal, and withdrawals are limited to one a year. Also, the tax payable on these withdrawals is usually 22%, however we recommend that you seek taxation advice.

Compassionate Grounds

The superannuation laws allow people to withdraw their superannuation monies early on compassionate grounds. More specifically (and in summary), to avoid foreclosure on the family home, to pay for medical treatment or transport for the claimant or their loved one, to pay for modifications to the home or car of the claimant or their loved one which are required due to injury or illness, to pay for the funeral of a loved one and some other circumstances.

Before claiming and withdrawing superannuation on compassionate grounds related to illness or injury of yourself or a loved one, first consider claiming on any total and permanent disability, other disability or death insurance which might be available. If you are unsure, get in touch and we will point you in the right direction without charge.

Usually, you can only access as much money per withdrawal as is required to save your house or pay for the home modifications etc. Also, the tax payable on these withdrawals is usually 22%, however we recommend that you seek taxation advice.

Today’s blog is written by Berrill & Watson Principal, Tom Cobban. Feel free to get in touch with Tom directly if you have any queries or require assistance.

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