Disaster Legal Help Victoria

Superannuation – early access

Accessing superannuation

Your superannuation is generally preserved until you retire from the workforce. A person's preservation age ranges from 55 to 60 depending on their date of birth. Visit the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) websiteExternal Link for more information on the preservation age. Once you reach age 65, you can be paid your superannuation regardless of whether you have retired.

Date of birthPreservation age
Before 1 July 196055
1 July 1960–30 June 196156
1 July 1961–30 June 196257
1 July 1962–30 June 196358
1 July 1963–30 June 196459
After 30 June 196460

You may also access your superannuation if your preserved benefit is less than $200 (if your employment has been terminated) and your superannuation account is no longer active.

Applications on these grounds should be made to your superannuation provider.

If you are unsure about where your superannuation is, you can search via the ATO on myGov, call 13 28 65, or complete a paper form and send it to the ATO. Visit the ATO websiteExternal Link for more information on finding lost super.

Changes to the identification and consolidation of lost superannuation have been implemented as part of the government’s SuperStream reforms. These include a modified superannuation enrolment process to identify lost superannuation and the consolidation of superannuation funds. Inactive, low-balance superannuation accounts are required to be reported and paid to the ATO by your provider, and then will be proactively consolidated on your behalf.

Subject to the rules of your superannuation fund, early release of preserved superannuation benefits is permitted in some circumstances. To qualify for early access to superannuation, the trustee of your superannuation fund must be satisfied that you meet one of the below tests.

Early release due to severe financial hardship

Requirements for demonstrating severe financial hardship can vary between superannuation funds. You should apply directly to your fund for details.

To be eligible under this category, your superannuation fund must, as a legal minimum, be satisfied that:

  1. if you are below your preservation (retirement) age, you have received eligible Commonwealth income support payments for a continuous period of 26 weeks
  2. you are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses
  3. you have substantial evidence of your debts or unpayable expenses.

To support your application, you can ask for a confirmation letter from any Centrelink office or you can contact Centrelink directly. The confirmation letter is only valid for 21 days. Alternatively, you can authorise your superannuation fund to check your eligibility using Centrelink’s Customer Confirmation eServiceExternal Link .

If your superannuation fund is satisfied that you meet these criteria and agrees to release your superannuation early, you may obtain a one-off payment of between $1000 and $10,000 in any one 12-month period. If you have less than $1000 in superannuation, you may access the whole amount. You can only make one withdrawal in any 12-month period.

Early release of superannuation may have an impact on the benefits you or your partner receive from Centrelink. The fund trustee may charge you fees for the early release and the money released may also be taxed.

Not all social security or family support payments qualify as Commonwealth income support payments. The following benefits are excluded:

  • Family Tax Benefits
  • Child Care Benefits
  • Youth Allowance (full-time study)
  • Abstudy Benefits
  • Austudy Benefits.

In general, other income support supplements, service pensions, social security pensions or social security benefits should qualify. Centrelink can tell you whether your payments comply.

Centrelink and the Department of Veterans' Affairs provide standard letters which verify to your superannuation fund that you have received the appropriate payments for the required time. Letters are no longer valid after 21 days from their issue date, and you must still be receiving the payments on the date of the letter from Centrelink or the Department of Veteran Affairs.

If you have received support payments for the required time, you must then show that you are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses. Please note that early release can only be for unpaid expenses. If you used a loan, or a credit card, or borrowed money from family or friends to pay the expense, it is considered paid and the eligibility requirement for early access has not been met.

Ultimately, whether you can be regarded as being unable to meet your family living expenses is a decision for the trustee of your superannuation fund. Most superannuation funds have a form and statutory declaration that they will require you to fill in to show your financial circumstances. To make this decision, your superannuation fund will probably request details of your family income, your assets and your expenses.

Different access rules apply if you:

  1. have reached preservation age (between 55 and 60, depending on when you were born)
  2. have been receiving eligible Commonwealth income support payments (as previously described) for a cumulative period of 39 weeks since reaching that age
  3. were not employed on a full-time or part-time basis on the date of applying for the early release of you preserved benefit.

If you satisfy these conditions, there is no need for the trustee to enquire into your financial circumstances and there is no limit to the amount of superannuation that may be released.

Early release on compassionate grounds

There are some other circumstances where you will be able to access your superannuation early. These include:

  • if you or a dependent have certain medical expenses (including if you need modifications to your home or vehicle due to a severe disability)
  • the need to make mortgage repayments or council payments to prevent your mortgagee from selling your home
  • if you or a dependant requires palliative care
  • the payment of funeral expenses of a dependant.

You will only be able to access your superannuation on these grounds if you could not afford to meet the expense without some or all of your superannuation.

You cannot have already paid for your expenses when seeking release of your super on compassionate grounds.

Temporary or permanent incapacity may be grounds for seeking early access to superannuation in some circumstances. You may also be able to access your super early if you have a terminal medical condition.

The super you withdraw is paid and taxed as a normal lump sum (which will be automatically deducted from your super account). The amount you will be taxed will depend on various factors, including your age and the components of the super lump sum.

Superannuation scams

The ATO has expressed concerns about scams or schemes where people:

  • impersonate the ATO, or a trusted organisation like your super fund, to steal your money or personal identifying information
  • contact you and charge for services that are free, like gaining early access to your superannuation.

If you get a phone call, text message or email offering to help you release your super early, do not provide your personal information or click on any links.

Where to get help

For legal information and referrals, call Disaster Legal Help Victoria on 1800 113 432 (Monday to Friday, 8 am to 6 pm). You can also contact your closest community legal centreExternal Link to get advice from a local lawyer.

For more support options, see Other organisations that can help or find Other ways to contact us.

This Centrelink service will allow your superannuation fund to check if you’re eligible for early release of super on the grounds of financial hardship. For more information, visit Services AustraliaExternal Link .


MoneysmartExternal Link is a Federal Government website that provides financial information and resources for managing savings and debt.

Reviewed 28 November 2023