Depending on your circumstances there may be ways to access your Superannuation funds early, and debt could possibly be one of them. Two of the reasons you might be able to access your funds before you reach preservation age are related to debts, and these are on the grounds of compassion and also financial hardship. But you must be aware that it will depend on your fund because even though these release conditions are part of the law surrounding Superannuation, not all funds allow payments under such circumstances. The best advice is to check with your fund for more information.

Accessing your Superannuation funds early due to hardship circumstances are different from accessing super early under compassionate grounds. The following is an overview of these reasons, but always seek advice from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)(1) because early release of super is for unpaid costs only.  You should also be aware that the ATO advises that you could be liable to pay tax on the funds withdrawn under early release conditions.


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Early Access Due

Early Access Due to Severe Financial Hardship

You could be able to access up to $10,000 from your Superannuation on severe financial hardship conditions of release.  However, you must have received eligible income support payments from the government for 26 weeks continuously. To be eligible, you must also be unable to meet what are considered “reasonable and immediate family living expenses”.  If you meet these criteria, you should contact your Superannuation fund. In any 12-month timeframe, you can make only one application for early release of your super under financial hardship grounds. If you are granted the funds, you can withdraw from $1,000 and $10,000.  Therefore, depending on the kind of debt you have and on your circumstances, you might be eligible to withdraw some part of your super early to pay debts. The release conditions refer to any expenses necessary for your family’s daily life and can include:

  • Food costs
  • Accommodation or housing costs
  • Costs of essential travel
  • Other essential costs of living


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Early Access to Super

Early Access to Super on Compassionate Grounds

The ATO must approve any release of Superannuation funds under compassionate grounds, unlike financial hardship where your super fund has the final say. Depending on your circumstances, the ATO might allow you to access your super to pay debts if they relate to the grounds of compassion. This can be any circumstance where you have no other way of meeting medical or funeral costs if a partner or family member is ill or dies. Be aware that this is a much stricter process than applying under financial hardship. You must apply to the ATO and, if you are successful, your Superannuation fund will be sent an approval letter authorising early access. There is no limit or minimum amount you can access from your super on compassionate grounds, but the ATO will only allow you to access what you reasonably need to pay the expenses. Some of the expenses that might qualify include:

  • Medical expenses for you or a dependent.
  • Payments on a loan to stop you from losing your home.
  • Expenses due to modifying your home or vehicle for you or a dependant with a severe disability.
  • Expenses related to death, funeral, or burial.


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Superannuation Balance

What if I Owe More Than My Superannuation Balance?

If your Superannuation fund account doesn’t hold enough to make outstanding mortgage repayments, for instance, then to withdraw money from your super early on compassionate grounds you must either:

  • Reduce the amount owing to your bank.
  • Negotiate an agreement where the bank will accept your available Super funds in exchange for not foreclosing on your mortgage. The ATO will require a letter from your lender outlining the agreement. must then be provided to the ATO)

Before you decide to apply to access your Superannuation benefit early, always seek the advice of a professional such as PK Simpson. Call us today on 1300 757 467 or email We can help!