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Access To Superannuation

Complying superannuation funds in Australia must not pay out benefits until a condition of release is met. Minimum conditions of release are specified by law, and each superannuation fund’s internal rules may set out additional requirements.

There are significant penalties for breaking the superannuation release rules. The Tax Office has issued warnings against promoters offering early release.

Superannuation release conditions

Administering the release of superannuation and making sure the correct conditions are met is the responsibility of the Trustees of the super fund. Conditions for release are listed in Schedule 1 of the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Regulations 1994.

Superannuation Release Triggers

Triggers enabling the legal release of superannuation include:

  • Age together with working status (e.g. retirement)
  • Special circumstances – including terminal medical conditions, death, severe financial hardship and compassionate grounds (strictly administered)

Early Release of Superannuation

Most early release applications are handled directly by the super fund. However early release on certain specified compassionate grounds can be applied for online through a Centrelink account at myGov – see references at DHS – early release of super or ATO – Early access to your super.

Note also that temporary residents leaving Australia have a separate application process.

Superannuation Preservation Age

Aside from special circumstances, you can’t access your super before reaching preservation age.

Reaching preservation age means your super funds can be released, subject to your own fund’s internal rules and other conditions, which include:

  • taking a transition to retirement pension between the ages of 55 to 60; or
  • retirement after the age of 60,  or
  • turning 65

Your preservation age depends on when you were born as indicated by the following table:

Date of BirthPreservation Age
Before 1 July 196055 years old
1 July 1960 to 30 June 196156 years old
1 July 1961 to 30 June 196257 years old
1 July 1962 to 30 June 196358 years old
1 July 1963 to 30 June 196459 years old
1 July 1964 or later60 years old

The tax on released super

The tax position of funds released from super will depend on:

  • age
  • the source of funds (taxed, untaxed, tax free)
  • whether paid as a lump sum or an income stream (pension)
  • status of beneficiary (see death benefits)

When a lump sum super fund withdrawal is made, tax is required to be withheld unless specific conditions are met. The amount of tax to be withheld depends on the source of the funds being paid and the age of the beneficiary.

The following table is a summary of applicable tax rates. References to Low Rate Cap and Untaxed Plan Cap are to the two additional tables below.

Coronavirus Early Release Re-contributions

Legislation has been passed which prevents the re-contribution of Covid-19 early release withdrawals from being claimed as a tax deduction.

However to encourage the restoration of early release funds, the re-contributions will be excluded from a person’s non-concessional contributions cap.

This applies from 1 July 2021 until 30 June 2030.

See Media Release and further info for super funds.

Temporary Coronavirus Early Release

As part of the Government’s economic response to the Coronavirus emergency, the hardship conditions for early release of superannuation were varied.

The final date for applications under these arrangements was 31 December 2020.

Subject to funds being available in the super fund, up to $20,000 was able to be withdrawn in two amounts:

  • up to $10,000 before 1 July 2020; and
  • up to $10,000 between 1 July 2020 and 24 September 2020.

The amounts withdrawn are tax free, and do not affect Centrelink or Veterans Affairs payments.

Regulations were amended to enable temporary visa holders to have access to early withdrawals. That includes student visa holders, holders of visa subclasses 457 and 482 and other temporary residents.

Qualifying conditions

Eligibility to apply for early release was one or more of:

  • you are unemployed
  • you are eligible for one of Job Seeker or Parenting Payments, special benefit or farm household allowance. Sole traders are included.
  • on or after 1 January 2020 you were
    • made redundant; or
    • had working hours reduced by at least 20%; or
    • if a sole trader, your business was suspended or had a reduction in turnover of at least 20%

Regulations were amended to allow temporary residents access to the scheme.

How to check your super fund balances with myGOV

To check your superannuation balances in myGov, select the ATO linked service, and then on “Super” at the top of the screen (or the top left menu on mobile) .  Select “Fund details” from the expanded menu.

You will see a screen-listing of your super funds, the balances and the last date updated as shown in the next image.

These details depend on correct and timely reporting from your employer and super fund, so if any details don’t look right, you should contact them to find out why.

Lump Sum Payments – Tax Withholding Rates

Payments of benefits sourced from after-tax (non-concessional) contributions will always be tax free. Benefits sourced from concessional (tax-deductible) contributions will either be a “taxed” or “untaxed” element, and taxed as in the following table.

See also Tax Instalment Tables

AgeTaxed ElementUntaxed Element
Any age – with a terminal illnessNilNil
Below Preservation Age22%32% to Untaxed Plan Cap
47%* above Untaxed Plan Cap
From Preservation Age to 59 yearsNil up to the Low Rate Cap
17% above the Low Rate Cap
17% to Low Rate Cap
32% from Low Rate Cap to Untaxed Plan Cap
47% above Low Rate Cap Untaxed Plan Cap
Aged 60 and aboveNil17% to Untaxed Plan Cap
47%* above Untaxed Plan Cap
The above rates include Medicare and assume TFN is disclosed. * From 1 July 2014 medicare levy increased by 0.5% to 2% and until 30 June 2017 a Temporary Budget Repair Levy of 2% was added to the top marginal rate such that the corresponding rate steps became 22%, 17%, 32% and 49% inclusive of medicare levy.

Low Rate Caps

Year Ended 30 June:Amount

The low-rate cap is a lifetime tax-free limit on superannuation lump sums paid from taxed benefits. The cap amount is indexed annually in line with AWOTE in increments of $5,000 (rounded down) generally made available in February of each year.

Untaxed Plan Caps

Year Ended 30 June:Amount

The cap amount is indexed annually in line with AWOTE in increments of $5,000 (rounded down) generally available in February of each year.

Tax rates – a summary*

* this is a generalised summary which takes no account of individual circumstances. Please seek professional advice before taking any action.

  • The tables below do not include the impact of Medicare Levy.
  • Tax is not paid on any withdrawal which is authorised on the basis of a terminal medical condition.
  • The tax rates for temporary residents leaving Australia permanently (“DASPs”) are here.

Tax on the TAXED element of superannuation withdrawals

Member’s AgeUp to Low Rate CapAbove CapOffset
Below Preservation AgeMarginal RateNil
Preservation Age to 60 yearsMarginal Rate15%
Over 60No tax
Member’s AgeUp to Low Rate CapAbove Cap
Below Preservation AgeLower of marginal tax rate or 20%
Preservation Age to 60 years0%Lower of marginal rate or 15%
Over 60No Tax

Untaxed super is essentially funds on which tax has not been paid on the member’s behalf, that element of the member’s fund value therefore being “untaxed”. Depending on the member’s tax position, the tax on withdrawal of untaxed elements may be higher than the total tax applicable to fully taxed funds.

Age-based taxability of withdrawals are differentially treated with reference to both Low Rate and Untaxed Plan Caps.

Tax on the UNTAXED element of superannuation withdrawals

Member’s AgeTax rateOffset
Below Preservation AgeMarginal RateNil
Preservation Age to 60 yearsMarginal RateNil
Over 60Marginal Rate10%
Member’s AgeUp To Low Rate CapFrom Low Rate Cap To Untaxed Plan CapUp To Untaxed Plan Cap Over the cap
Below Preservation Age Lower of marginal rate or 30%Marginal rate
Preservation Age to 60 yearsLower of marginal rate or 15%Lower of marginal rate or 30% Top marginal rate
Over 60 Lower of marginal rate or 15%Top marginal rate

Rates in the above tables do not include Medicare levy the general rate for which increased by 0.5% to 2% from 1 July 2014.

Death Benefits

Death benefits paid to dependent beneficiaries are generally afforded generous tax treatment.

Superannuation death benefits
Type of benefitTax rateOffset
Pension – tax free componentnil 
Pension – taxable component – both member & beneficiary under 60Marginal Rate15%
Pension – taxable component – member or beneficiary aged 60 or overnil 
Lump sum – tax free componentnil 
Lump sum – taxable component – dependent beneficiarynil 
Lump sum – taxable component plus Section 295-485 anti-detriment amount – dependent beneficiary * (removed from 1 July 2017)nil 
Lump sum – taxable component – non-dependent beneficiary15% 
Lump sum – untaxed component30% 

* spouse, former spouse or child.

Rates in the above tables do not include Medicare levy the general rate for which increased by 0.5% to 2% from 1 July 2014.

Commutation Guidance

The Taxation Office has released guidance on the commutation of death benefit income streams before 1 July 2017  see Practical Compliance Guideline PCG 2017/6 and article: Existing death benefit pensions, transfer balance caps and the ATO lifeline – PCG 2017/6

Further information and resources

This page was last modified 2023-06-28