If you have medical, disability or funeral expenses you just can’t afford, you have the right to apply to the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to have some of your superannuation released early before you retire.

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Applying on compassionate grounds

You may be eligible to withdraw some of your super early on compassionate grounds – such as for medical, disability or funeral expenses – if you cannot pay for these expenses without accessing your super.

Any super you withdraw for this purpose will be taxed and the tax amount will be deducted from the lump sum payment.  The tax rate varies depending on your age and other factors.  On average, tax of approximately 22% will be deducted.

Note: Your superannuation fund is not obliged to release your funds early if their policy does not allow early access. If your fund does allow early access, you need to apply to the ATO.

Before applying call 1800 007 007 and speak to one of our financial counsellors about your situation, the risks associated with accessing your super early and all the options available to you.



To be eligible to access your super early on compassionate grounds you must meet all five conditions listed below:

Condition 1 – grounds for compassionate release

You can show that the funds are required to pay:

  1. For medical or dental treatment for yourself or a dependant, or to pay for transport for treatment
  2. To modify your home or car to accommodate your own needs or the needs of a dependant with a severe disability
  3. For palliative care for yourself or a dependant with a terminal medical condition
  4. To pay for expenses associated with a dependant’s death, funeral or burial
  5. To prevent the foreclosure or forced sale of your home (see our page Early Release of Superannuation to Prevent Foreclosure for more information on eligibility and how to apply)

Condition 2 – unpaid expense

You have not yet paid the expense, meaning it is unpaid.  If you have already paid the expense, for example by using a credit card, or loan, or money from family and friends, then the ATO will consider the expense as paid and you do not meet the eligibility criteria.

Condition 3 – lack financial capacity

You must show that you can’t afford to pay part or all of the expense without accessing your super. That is, you can’t pay the expense by

  • getting a loan
  • using your savings
  • selling shares, investments or assets.

Condition 4 – citizenship / residency status

You are, or have been, a citizen or permanent resident of Australia or New Zealand.

Condition 5 – supporting evidence

You must provide all supporting evidence such as unpaid invoices or quotes relevant to the compassionate ground under which you are applying.


How to apply

Before applying, contact your super fund and check that they will release your super on compassionate grounds if your application is approved by the ATO.

Your superannuation fund is not obliged to release your funds early if their policy does not allow early access.  If you are in this situation, call 1800 007 007 and speak to one of our financial counsellors.

If you are eligible, you can apply and submit supporting documents online using the ATO online form accessed from your MyGov account.

You can find more information about eligibility, the evidence required and how to apply for early access on compassionate grounds here on the ATO website.

If you’re terminally ill, you can apply directly to your super fund for the early release of your superannuation. You’ll need 2 medical certificates from 2 doctors (one must be a specialist) confirming that you have an illness that is likely to result in your death within 2 years.

Your fund must pay your super as a lump sum. The payment is tax-free if you withdraw it within 24 months of certification.  If your fund does not allow access due to a terminal medical condition, you may be able to move your super to a different fund.

Speak to one of our financial counsellors

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some help to deal with your financial hardship, you can speak with one of our financial counsellors.

Financial counsellors aren’t judgmental about your circumstances – they’re here to offer you free, confidential and independent advice and assistance.

To speak to a financial counsellor you can:

  • Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 – open Weekdays from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.
  • Use our live chat service by clicking the chat icon in the bottom right corner of your screen. Live chat is available 9:00 am to 8.00 pm weekdays. If you send a message outside these hours a financial counsellor will get back to you.
  • Make an appointment to see a financial counsellor in your local area – Find a local Financial Counsellor.