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  • Design and implementation information

    This page provides information to super funds on the design and implementation for the COVID-19 early release of super package.

    For a portable format document (PDF) of this content, see Design and implementation – COVID-19 early release of superannuation (PDF 574KB)This link will download a file.

    On this page:

    Individual application process

    Find out about information on the individual application process:

    Application process

    The application is available in ATO online services through myGov. There is not a paper form option. We rolled out the electronic and phone process on 20 April 2020.

    The applicant can phone our call centre on 13 10 20, which will assist with access to myGov.

    Applications for the 2020–21 financial year can be made from 1 July 2020 to 24 September 2020.

    The measure will cease after 24 September 2020 but applications received before the cut-off dates may be processed after this date.

    Applications for the 2019–20 financial year closed on 30 June 2020.

    Available accounts

    A member can request amounts up to a total of $10,000 from multiple funds at the application stage:

    • The available fund accounts will be displayed and the member can choose multiple accounts and the amount to be approved for release from each account.
    • There are no restrictions on the amount a person can request for release from any account, except the $10,000 overall yearly limit.
    • A member can request more than the account balance displayed to them in the application.
    • There is a limit of $10,000 in the one application per financial year.

    A member cannot add a new fund to myGov when applying. Only matched accounts reported to us through the member account attribution service (MAAS) will be displayed.

    The application form has been designed to display all open accounts, except those in retirement phase. A member can only apply for one determination per financial year. For example, a member can request $1,000 from one fund and another $9,000 from another fund as long as it is in the same application.

    Members will not be able to make a subsequent application if they do not request or receive the full amount that has been approved in their first application for that financial year.

    Bank account details

    We are collecting bank account details in the application form.

    At that stage of applying, the individual has authenticated themselves in the application process or by phone.

    The individual will make relevant declarations in relation to the bank account details within the application.

    The bank account will not default to the tax return account – the individual will provide the bank account details in the application.

    ATO-held super

    An individual cannot apply for a determination to release super under the Coronavirus early access arrangements where the super amount is held by us.

    If the individual is not eligible for a direct payment of ATO-held super, they will need to request a transfer of the ATO-held super into an account held by a super provider on their behalf before requesting its release.

    Correspondence

    All member correspondence delivered through myGov will be available within four business days. Paper mail will be subject to postal timing.

    The member will receive an email or SMS text to advise their application has been approved. They will also receive an approval letter in their myGov Inbox.

    Varying an application

    Once an application is submitted it cannot be varied.

    Revoking an application

    An application can be revoked if there is a genuine error or mistake.

    Eligibility

    An individual will self-assess to determine eligibility for COVID-19 early release of super and certify their eligibility in the application. Evidence is not required in the application process. However, we are advising individuals to retain evidence to support their application.

    An Australian citizen does not need to be residing in Australia to apply but must meet the eligibility criteria.

    Super cannot be released from a pension account under these arrangements.

    The COVID-19 early release of suaccess arrangements allow a member of a super fund to apply for the release of their preserved or restricted non-preserved benefits.

    If a member is receiving an account based pension, that is not a transition to retirement income stream (TRIS), they would have met a condition of release with a nil cashing restriction. This type of condition of release converts any preserved and restricted non-preserved benefits the member had in their super fund into unrestricted non-preserved benefits.

    As the arrangements do not apply to unrestricted non-preserved benefits, amounts supporting the pension cannot be accessed under these arrangements.

    However, unrestricted non-preserved benefits can be cashed at any time by the member, subject to the rules of the fund and the account based pension. That is, outside of the COVID-19 early release of super measure.

    TRIS must meet the requirements of ordinary account based pensions, and the additional requirements set out in regulation 6.01(2) of the Superannuation Industry Supervision Regulations 1994 (SISR) that apply to annual payments from the pension account and the restrictions set out in regulation 6.01AB of the SISR on when a superannuation lump sum resulting from the commutation of a the TRIS can be cashed.

    The recent amendments to allow early release of super under COVID-19 arrangements do not vary the circumstances in which pension payments may be made from a TRIS, or the circumstances in which an amount commuted from a TRIS can be cashed out of the super fund. Hence, no amounts in excess of what are already allowed to be cashed from a TRIS can be released under these arrangements.

    However, a member whose TRIS comprises preserved or restricted non-preserved benefits may be able to commute the TRIS back to the accumulation phase within the super fund (in accordance with the rules of the fund and the pension). In this case, the preserved and restricted non-preserved amounts may then be eligible to be released under COVID-19 early release of super arrangements.

    All open accumulation accounts will be displayed. We are finalising the design of the application form in relation to other account types.

    TRIS accounts are no longer displayed in the application form as of the weekend 2–3 May 2020.

    Fund notification and release of super

    Find out about information on fund notification and release of super:

    Fund notification

    For this category of compassionate release of super we will be providing a bulk electronic file to funds that can be downloaded through bulk data exchange (BDE) and processed. The process for existing categories of compassionate release of super will be unchanged.

    From 11 May 2020, in addition to the normal file send, a second ‘additional information file’ will be sent when required.

    The additional information file will contain determinations where we recommend funds further strengthen verification processes with the member over and above existing verification processes that apply to all determinations.

    The access manager requirements for BDE are the same as the existing compassionate release of super process. This means the new notification files will be delivered the same way existing compassionate release of super notifications are delivered.

    BDE has an upper file limit of 13GB per file. The daily file sent to funds via BDE is not expected to exceed this producing a daily file at an Australian business number (ABN) or unique superannuation identifier (USI) level.

    We issued CRT Alert 007/2020 with the original data file specification and a sample data file on 2 April 2020.

    A further CRT Alert 026/2020 was issued on 11 May 2020 advising of the introduction of the additional information file as well.

    The specification for both files is also available at: softwaredevelopers.ato.gov.au/CoronavirusEarlyreleaseofsuperguideExternal Link

    Funds started receiving notification files from Tuesday 21 April.

    Funds will need to check the portal and download the file each day.

    An outbound file (validation report, return file or ATO-initiated outbound) is available for unlimited downloads in BDE for 90 days.

    The files will be available by 11.00am AEST Monday to Friday. The files will include approved applications that we processed two days earlier. For example, approved applications processed on a Monday will be provided in a file to funds on Wednesday. The Tuesday file will contain approvals for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

    The COVID-19 early release of super notification will appear as a new file type in the Business Portal as an extra option for funds to select. The description for the Business Portal for the fund notification will be ‘Compassionate Release of Super Notification COVID’.

    If we have no determinations to send to funds at an ABN or USI level, then no file will be sent.

    We will provide the data from the ATO client register, not from the MAAS data reported by the fund.

    The application form ID is unique to each application. Where the individual requests their coronavirus amounts from multiple funds, all funds will receive the same form ID.

    There is no requirement for funds to report the outcome of valid determination notices to the ATO.

    Funds can direct all queries about COVID-19 early release of super to FundCCRS@ato.gov.au.

    Proportioning rules

    The payment is subject to the proportioning rules.

    Tax and payment summaries

    Funds are not required to issue PAYG statements showing a proportion of the payment to be taxable component – untaxed element.

    The payment is not a ‘withholding payment’ as defined in section 995-1(1) of the ITAA 1997 and an amount is not required to be withheld from the payment as it is NANE (see s12-1(1A) of Schd 1, TAA).

    Payment by fund

    Funds are required to make the payment tax-free.

    Payment timeframes

    The SISR require the payment to be made by the trustee to the member as soon as practicable.

    The compassionate release of super process does not include advising us of how much money was released.

    Release of funds

    There is no requirement to report back to us where a fund is unable to pay part or all the monies requested under the early release of super provisions.

    Other information

    Find out about:

    Eligibility

    We make the determination based on self-assessment – the fund will not have all relevant information to be able to determine whether a person is eligible. However, if funds identify a case suspected to be high risk of fraud, this should be reported to us. Funds can direct any integrity or fraud concerns to earlyreleaseofsuperintegrity@ato.gov.au.

    Eligibility for the COVID-19 early release of super measure has been extended to the following:

    • the holder of a student visa that has been held for 12 months or more and they are unable to meet immediate living expenses
    • the holder of a temporary skilled work visa, if working hours have reduced to zero and they remain engaged with their employer
    • the holder of a temporary resident visa holder (excluding student or skilled worker visas) and they cannot meet immediate living expenses.

    Temporary residents eligible under these grounds can apply for a release of up to $10,000 of their super before 1 July 2020.

    There is no change to the way funds will be notified of these determinations or the treatment of the amounts released. It will be the same as the original early release of super categories.

    New Zealand KiwiSaver accounts are not eligible. However, KiwiSaver amounts transferred to an Australian super fund are eligible to be withdrawn.

    If a member tells their fund that they do not think they were eligible for COVID-19 early release of super, the fund should advise the member to phone us on 13 10 20 to discuss their situation as soon as possible. We can then work with the member to determine whether they were in fact eligible based on their individual circumstances.

    Compliance checks

    The measure is based on self-assessment of eligibility and we will administer this through the application process.

    Any compliance activity will be followed up by us directly with the individual.

    Fraud

    Individuals will be warned during the application process about the penalties that apply to them if making a false and misleading statement.

    Any particular cases of concern will be managed by us with the individual.

    Warnings about making false or misleading statements will be part of the application process and the individual will make declarations.

    Proof of identity

    AUSTRAC have released these statements in relation to Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF) requirements in relation to this measure – COVID-19 update: AUSTRAC supports the ATO early release of super initiativeExternal Link

    AUSTRAC have confirmed that the rule will apply to all payments approved by us. The AUSTRAC web content has been updated.

    When a fund receives a notification for a coronavirus early release of super, it is required to pay as soon as reasonably practicable. There may be occasions when a fund will need to contact the member to meet that obligation. In those scenarios, a fund is able to use the provision of details service (PODS) to obtain current contact details for the member.

    Successor fund transfer

    The determination provides that an approved amount can be released from a specified super entity. If there is a determination provided for a super entity that no longer exists due to a successor fund transfer, the successor fund cannot release an amount from another super entity.

    If we issued a determination to an incorrect fund, we will need to manage this with the member.

    If a fund is aware that a successor fund transfer may disrupt the early release of super program, they should notify Super CRT and FundCCRS@ato.gov.au

    Non-regulated funds

    Members of non-regulated funds will need to apply directly to their own scheme or fund for early release of super.

    Non-regulated funds have their own state and territory law in regards to early release of super.

    If an individual applies to us for the release of an amount from an exempt public sector superannuation scheme (EPSSS), we will process the application, make a determination and send a notification to the EPSSS. It will be up to the EPSSS to decide, in accordance with their own law and requirements, how to respond to the notification and what action to take with the individual.

    Similarly, if an individual approaches the EPSSS directly, it will be for the trustee to determine how to manage that request with the individual.

    When an individual applies they will be presented with all open accounts that are not in retirement phase. This will include defined benefit accounts. We will process the application and notify the defined benefit fund. It is up to the defined benefit fund to decide whether or not to release the amount.

    Because individuals can only apply once in each financial year, we encourage defined benefit funds to make it clear to members whether they can or will release amounts under the COVID-19 early release of super arrangements.

    USM reporting

    We have deferred the April 2020 unclaimed superannuation money (USM) reporting until October 2020.

    Existing CRS applications

    If a fund has an existing compassionate release of super (CRS) request, this is to be processed as usual with the member approaching the fund with the appropriate correspondence and paid accordingly. It does not have any impact on a coronavirus early release if the client has had a CRS approved and paid or not-paid.

    The processes are separate, and, as such, can be managed without dependency on each other.

    Registration of interest

    There is currently no function available to register interest in COVID-19 early release of super applications for the next financial year.

    Fund support

    Fund support includes:

    Bank account details

    If a person notifies us that they put the incorrect details in the application form they are advised to contact their fund and let them know. We will not record other bank details when the determination has been made.

    Funds are reminded that the notification file from us is not a direction to pay. It is notification of the determination, which is that an amount can be released to a member from a super entity. The additional information in the file is provided to assist funds to pay as soon as reasonably practicable.

    If the fund trustee satisfies itself that payment should be made to an account that is different to the information provided in our files (through appropriate contact with the member), the payment can be made to an alternate bank account as established with the member.

    If the payment is rejected because the member bank account details are incorrect, the fund will need to contact the member and request the correct bank account information.

    The application form can only accept Australian bank account details.

    Application process

    Accounts with a lost or inactive indicator will be displayed within the application form and can be selected for early release of super.

    ATO online services (through myGov) does not stop an individual applying multiple times, however any secondary application submitted will be rejected by us. The fund will only receive the first application from the member.

    Amount to be paid

    The fund cannot pay more than the approved amount in the determination.

    The cashing restriction for this condition of release is a ‘single lump sum not exceeding the amount determined by the regulator.’ A fund may pay less than the approved amount if, for example, the member account balance is less than the approved amount, or the member contacts the fund and requests that a lesser amount be released.

    Release of funds

    The determination under regulation 6.19B of the SISR provides that the regulator makes a determination that a specified amount can be released from a specified superannuation entity. The member account information (and other details in the application) assists funds to pay as soon as reasonably practicable.

    If the super entity has an account for the individual that is not the account specified in the determination, the amount can be released from that account because the determination approves the release of an amount from that super entity.

    Example

    NAS fund receives a notification of a determination that relates to Jin's TRIS account. The fund speaks to Jin and they decide to commute the TRIS, and then release the amount from an accumulation account.

    Even though Jin now has a new account in a new USI, NAS fund can still release the amount in the determination because it is the same superannuation entity.

    End of example

    A fund can only release amounts it is able to. If the notification of determination references an insurance-only account and that is the only account that the super entity has for the individual and no amounts are able to be released, the trustee should advise the member.

    The fund can also advise us through the FundCCRS@ato.gov.au mailbox. We will work with individuals if there has been a genuine error in their application.

    A deployment over the 2–3 May 2020 weekend removed insurance only and transition to retirement income streams from displaying in the application form.

    ATO-initiated contact with funds

    From 11 May 2020, we have changed our approach initiating contact with funds.

    We will no longer send ‘incorrect bank account details’ emails. Individuals who advise us that they have included the incorrect bank details are advised to immediately contact their fund and update the bank details.

    As a result of the new additional information file, we will no longer send ‘Further investigation’ emails each morning.

    And as the new revocation process has been implemented, revocation emails will reduce and only be sent ad hoc. The table below has been updated accordingly.

    ATO-initiated email subject lines

    Topic

    Timing

    Subject line

    There are determinations that require further investigation and our advice is not to pay

    Ad hoc information as required

    Ad hoc as the investigation concludes

    FURTHER INVESTIGATION – urgent information about COVID-19 early release of super determination

    The ATO has revoked a determination

    Ad hoc

    REVOCATION – urgent information about COVID-19 early release of super determination

    A member has complained to the ATO that a fund won’t make payment due to mismatch of information

    Ad hoc

    MEMBER COMPLAINT – update required

    We will provide this information as soon as we can in line with the timing above. Where a fund has made a payment before they receive this information we will work with the fund and individual to resolve this.

    Fund-initiated queries

    We have worked quickly to put processes in place to quickly provide relevant information to funds as outlined in the table above. This is to ensure funds have relevant information where they might want to stop a payment.

    Fund queries sent to FundCCRS@ato.gov.au will be responded to as soon as possible.

    Data files

    We are monitoring the data files that are delivered and downloaded. We will contact funds through their nominated CCRS contact if we see files are not downloaded.

    Timing issue

    If there is a rollover requested or in progress at the same time that a determination is received, the fund will need to make a decision about the ordering of the transactions and accordingly release amounts if any are available.

    If a rollover has processed and there is no longer an available balance, the fund should advise us of the matter through the FundCCRS@ato.gov.au mailbox or the individual can phone us on 13 10 20. We will work with individuals if there has been a genuine error in their application.

    Revocation process

    The ATO is working with individuals if it has established that the individual has made a genuine error in their application. In those cases, the SISR allows for the determination to be revoked. A significant proportion of those applications have involved the individual selecting the incorrect amount to be released from their super account; for example, they might input $10 instead of $10,000.

    The individual is often not aware of this error until they receive the application approval correspondence or the actual payment.

    To ensure that those individuals who have made a genuine mistake are not disadvantaged and unable to access the early release benefits, we will revoke the first determination and issue a new determination. The new determination will not be for an amount greater than $10,000 when combined with the amount in the first determination. That is, the amount approved in the initial determination that is revoked and then the subsequent determination will not be greater than $10,000.

    We will not notify the trustee of any revocation in the instance of a genuine error and trustees should continue to make payments in response to any and all determinations received from us, even in circumstances where a second determination for a member is received in respect of the same financial year, and whether or not payment has yet been made in response to the first determination. If a fund receives a subsequent determination for the same member it will have a unique reference number in the data file.

    If a trustee makes a payment on the basis of a determination that is later revoked by us, APRA’s view is that no breach of the payment standards in the SISA and SISR will have occurred. However, if a trustee makes a payment after a determination has already been revoked by us, APRA will not take any regulatory action for any breach of the payment standards in the SISA or the SISR in relation to that payment.

    AUSTRAC have also confirmed that if there was a valid determination at the time of payment, the exemption from the requirement for a fund to undertake their customer identification procedure in relation to the applicant continues to apply.

    Member changes mind

    Once a determination is made, it cannot be varied. It can be revoked where there is a genuine error.

    The determination will not be revoked if there was no genuine error in their application and a member changes their mind because they want:

    • a greater amount than what was approved
    • a lesser amount than what was approved
    • to change the super fund for release
    • just to cancel their application.

    This includes where a payment has already been made.

    If an amount was released in accordance with a determination, and the member subsequently changes their mind and wants to return the amount to their super fund account, the amount paid to the fund will be a superannuation contribution. If the member intends to claim a personal super contribution deduction, before claiming a deduction they should consider broader tax outcomes that may apply. Any tax benefit obtained in relation to such a deduction could be cancelled if the member enters into a scheme mainly for the purpose of obtaining a tax benefit.

    If the member is concerned about their eligibility for COVID-19 early release of super, funds should encourage them to phone us on 13 10 20 to discuss their situation.

    Different details

    The details provided in the data file are the details we hold in our system. If these differ from the information held by the fund, the fund should confirm the correct details with the member as the determination is still valid.

    If a client complains to us that a fund refuses to pay because details provided in the data file don’t match, we will refer these back to the fund as they should seek to resolve these matters with their member.

    Call centre scripting

    We have been getting a number of calls from individuals saying that fund call centres are telling them that we have not provided the determination information or notification file.

    The files are being generated and delivered as expected. We have not identified any instance where the information has not been sent to the fund. We are concerned in some cases, fund call centre operatives are saying:

    • ‘We haven’t received the file from the ATO’
    • ‘The ATO hasn’t sent us your information’.

    It may be that the information from the file hasn’t landed in workflow systems or client records when the fund call centre staff member is looking up the member. For example, files may be delayed if they are in an exceptions queue or triggered a red flag. We would appreciate funds reviewing their call centre scripting if this is the case as they are providing misleading information for their members.

    Some funds have been escalating queries to us but the individual’s application was not for a release from that super fund.

    If an individual contacts their fund and the fund does not have information about the member’s determination:

    • funds should confirm the individual has received their approval letter por correspondence (this would normally be delivered to the individual’s myGov Inbox)
    • If the individual has not received it, it is too early for them to enquire about their request
    • If the individual has received it, ask them to read out the super fund that is named in the approval letter and confirm it is your super fund.

    Cancelling payment

    If an individual contacts their fund and says they don’t want the payment anymore, the fund can act on the member’s direction.

    Funds should confirm the member understands they will not be able to apply again in this financial year (or at all if they applied on a temporary resident category).

    Funds do not have to confirm that outcome with us.

    Reporting

    The ATO receives a copy of SMRs from AUSTRAC. However, if funds want to report the information to the ATO as well it can be provided via the earlyreleaseofsuperintegrity@ato.gov.au

    Contacting the ATO

    We have set up a contact for funds to raise integrity and fraud concerns or intelligence directly with a specialised team. The contact is earlyreleaseofsuperintegrity@ato.gov.au.

    Funds and administrators should continue to send queries that are operational, administrative or general in nature to FundCCRS@ato.gov.au.

    Information security

    If a member thinks their personal information has been compromised, the fund should direct the member to more information on our website – ato.gov.au/general/online-services/identity-security/your-identity-security---get-help/

      Last modified: 03 Aug 2020QC 62005