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The purpose of super is to help you save money for your retirement. Generally, you cannot withdraw your super in cash before you reach your preservation age,Opens in new window which is between age 55 and 60, depending on your date of birth. For more information see accessing your super .

There are, however, some limited circumstances in which you can access part of your super early in cases of severe financial hardship or on compassionate grounds, including as part of the Government's economic response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

By law, there are strict eligibility guidelines about releasing super under these conditions as summarised below.

Please call SuperPhone on 1300 360 373 for more information before applying.

The Government's economic response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

You may be able to access your super early as part of the Government's economic response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. From mid-April 2020, the law enabled eligible individuals to access up to $10,000 of their super in the 2019-20 financial year, and a further $10,000 in the 2020-21 financial year to help them deal with the adverse economic effects of COVID-19.

Applications for early release of super relating to COVID-19 must be made through the myGov website
sign inOpens in new window  or find details on how to create a myGov accountOpens in new window if you do not already have one. You must apply by 31 December 2020 if eligible to apply for the $10,000 in the 2020-21 financial year; and applications for the the 2019-20 financial year early release are now closed.

Any such payments will be tax-free and will not impact on Centrelink or Veteran's Affairs payments. For more information, read the 'Early access to superannuation' fact sheetOpens in new window on the treasury.gov.au website. 

Employee members please note that an APSS other offset account will be opened automatically for you if the money you access early comes from your APSS Defined Benefit. See the section below under the heading ‘Warning! Effect on your APSS Defined Benefit’ for more details, and make sure you understand the implications of having an other offset account by reading the fact sheetOpens in new window headed Using your APSS Defined Benefit to transition to retirement (Offset Accounts).  

Severe financial hardship

A minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $10,000 (before tax) in any 12-month period can be released from your preserved super if the Trustee accepts your claim for financial hardship. Only one payment can be made in any 12-month period. Any benefit payable is subject to tax if you are under age 60.

If requesting an early release of your super based on severe financial hardship you must:

  • Provide proof of financial hardship - documentary evidence to satisfy the Trustee that you are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses (i.e. due and payable at the time of your application, as future expenses will generally not be considered unless it is an urgent expense payable in the immediate future).
  • Provide information about any assets you have that could reasonably be sold to meet your expenses (excluding your home).
  • Be receiving Commonwealth income support payments and have been receiving such support, continuously, for the last 26 weeks if you’re under your preservation age. Eligible payments include service pensions, social security pensions, income support supplements and some drought relief payments. Payments that are not eligible include parenting allowance, family payments or Austudy/Abstudy or other youth allowance payments in relation to full-time study. If you’re older than your preservation age and you’ve been continuously receiving eligible payments for at least 39 weeks since reaching that age, you need only declare that you’re not gainfully employed at the time of making a request. You do not need to provide proof of financial hardship.

Release of benefits on compassionate grounds

Compassionate grounds may be considered for early release of your super. You may qualify if you have to:

  • Pay for medical or dental treatment (or transport to that treatment) for you or your dependant - where at least two medical practitioners (including one specialist) certify that the illness or injury is life threatening or you are suffering acute or chronic pain or mental illness, and the treatment is not readily available through the public health system.
  • Pay arrears on the mortgage on your home to prevent foreclosure on the mortgage or your home being sold by your lender, in which case an amount approximately equal to three months of mortgage repayments may be released.
  • Modify your home or vehicle to accommodate special needs due to a severe disability affecting you or your dependant.
  • Pay for expenses associated with palliative care for a terminal illness suffered by you or your dependant, and there are other grounds for early release for people with terminal illness.
  • Pay for expenses associated with your dependant’s death, funeral or burial.

Your application will also need to demonstrate that you do not have the financial capacity to meet the expenses by other means, such as from savings, health insurance or workers' compensation. 

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has more information on how to applyOpens in new window on compassionate grounds. To apply, you will need to sign in to the myGov websiteOpens in new window or  contact the ATOOpens in new window  if applying outside Australia. 

Warning! Effect on your APSS Defined Benefit

If you are an employee member, you may be able to access some of your APSS Defined Benefit early on compassionate grounds or due to severe financial hardship. If you do so, an other offset account will be opened automatically for you. The amount that you take early will be deducted (offset) from your ultimate Defined Benefit payment, but interest is also applied. This means you will ‘owe’ more than just the amount of Defined Benefit you take early. Think of it like a loan account secured against a house, except the ‘house’ in this case is your Defined Benefit. 

It’s very important to understand the effect of the interest that is applied. Because it is compounding interest, an APSS other offset account may actually grow faster than a Defined Benefit if the interest rates applied are high enough.

We’ve prepared a fact sheet to help you understand how other offset accounts work. Although it’s primarily written for members using their APSS Defined Benefit to transition to retirement, it’s just as relevant for members who have accessed their Defined Benefit early on compassionate grounds or because of financial hardship. Go to the fact sheetsOpens in new window section of this website and download the fact sheet headed Using your APSS Defined Benefit to transition to retirement for details.