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How to apply for release on compassionate grounds

How to apply for early release of super on compassionate grounds and what to expect.

Last updated 14 November 2023

Overview

You can apply online or on a paper form for early release on compassionate grounds.

We're unable to process applications over the phone. But we can answer any questions you have about completing your application – phone us on 13 10 20.

We don't charge for processing applications. But some third-party intermediaries may charge a fee to assist with preparing and submitting an application on your behalf. Intermediaries can only charge you a fee if they're a registered tax agent. Your super can't be released to cover the intermediary's fees.

You should never share your myGov login details with anyone, including your registered tax agent. To check if a provider is a registered tax agent, use the Tax Practitioners Board registerExternal Link.

Before you apply

Before you apply you should:

  1. carefully review the information we provide here to:  
    • understand the impacts of accessing your super
    • determine if you're eligible
    • understand the evidence required to support an application, including  
      • the general evidence requirements
      • any evidence required to show you're in a dependent relationship with someone when you're seeking access to pay an expense for them
      • evidence relevant to the specific ground on which you're applying for compassionate release
  2. confirm you have a sufficient super balance to cover the expense and withholding tax
  3. check if your super fund allows early release of super
  4. collect all the documents and evidence required to support your application.

If you have a self-managed super fund (SMSF), you must still apply to us and get our approval before releasing any money from the fund.

Common errors when applying

Applications need to be supported by the right evidence for the specific compassionate release ground. Failing to provide the right evidence will result in delays in processing the application or it not being approved.

Table of common errors

Common errors when applying include…

Find out more

Attaching out of date quotes or invoices for unpaid expenses. They must be:

  • for quotes – no more than 6 months old
  • for invoices – no more than 30 days old.

Quotes and unpaid invoices

Not providing the right medical reports to support your medical treatment:

  • You must obtain a medical report from the relevant registered medical specialist in the area of the medical condition that you're applying for release to treat.

If you're applying for treatment to alleviate an acute or chronic mental illness, the relevant medical specialist report must be completed by a psychiatrist.

Evidence

Applying to prevent the foreclosure or forced sale of your home from a mortgage lender and not providing all evidence requirements: default notice, letter from the mortgage lender and a utility bill.

Evidence

Applying for release to prevent foreclosure or forced sale of your home for ineligible expenses such as a personal credit card debt, outstanding rent, or other personal loans.

Expenses that are not eligible

Applying to purchase a vehicle for medical transport where the vehicle costs more than $20,000 and not including additional information that supports the need for the specific vehicle.

Medical transport - purchasing a vehicle

Applying for the expense of a dependant and not including sufficient evidence to support the existence of an interdependent or substantial financially dependent relationship.

Accessing super to pay expenses for someone else

How to apply

Online application process

You can access our online application form via your myGov accountExternal Link linked to ATO online services.

From the ATO online services home page, select the heading option Super, then Manage, then Compassionate release of super.

Ensure you're aware of the following information before completing your online application:

  • You need digital copies of the required evidence. We accept photos of documents. Supported file formats are PDF, gif, jpeg and png. We do not accept screen shots of text messages, emails or Google documents.
  • Our system can't accept more than 20 attachments
  • Each attachment needs to be smaller than 10 MB.

Applying to repay borrowed amounts

Our online and paper application forms currently indicate that paid expenses are not allowable expenses for compassionate release of super purposes, including where the expense was paid using borrowed money - such as through obtaining a loan, using credit facilities, or other borrowing of money, including from family or friends.

We are currently in the process of updating these forms to be consistent with the information on our website. Until these forms are updated, if you are applying to repay a borrowed amount that is still outstanding and can't be paid via other means (in part or full), when completing our:

  • online application, you need to select the tick box advising 'The expenses have not been paid' because the unpaid expense is the outstanding balance of the borrowed amount
  • paper application, the question 'Have the expenses been paid?' needs to be answered 'No' because the unpaid expense is the outstanding balance of the borrowed amount.

You will also need to provide additional documents to support the borrowed amount.

Benefits in applying online

  • Online applications are generally processed more quickly than paper applications, which can take up to 28 days to process.
  • You can view your application and the documents you provide at any time.
  • You will receive a receipt ID that confirms we have received your application and can be used to discuss it with us.
  • You don't have to make copies of your evidence or send them via post.
  • You will receive the outcome of your application quicker via your myGov inbox.
  • Our online application includes a help function to help you apply correctly.

If you can't apply online

If you don't have access to our online services to submit your application, request a paper application form by:

  • phoning us from within Australia on 13 10 20 (8:00 am – 6:00 pm, Monday – Friday, or 10:00 am to 2:00 pm on Saturdays AEDT), or
  • phoning us from overseas on +61 2 6216 1111 (8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday – Friday AEDT) to request a paper application form.

If you apply from overseas:

  • Copies of documents you provide to support your application should be certified as true and correct copies of the original document. You must arrange for documents in another language to be translated into English and certified as a true and correct copy by an authorised translation service.
  • Quotes and invoices must be converted to Australian currency.
  • Post your completed forms and supporting documents to

    Australian Taxation Office
    Compassionate release of superannuation
    PO Box 3006
    PENRITH  NSW  2740
    AUSTRALIA

More than one person applying for the same expense

You can apply for the same expense as another person if all people applying need to pay different parts of the same expense. If you and another person are applying for the same expense, each person will need to:

  • complete and submit a separate application
  • meet the eligibility criteria
  • provide the applicable evidence (including documents showing the expense is in the names of all applicants).

The sum of the amount requested in the separate applications must not be more than the total amount of the invoice or quote.

What to expect after you apply

When reviewing your application, we will treat you respectfully and professionally. We will respond to your application fairly and in a timely manner as outlined in the ATO Charter.

We will assess your eligibility in accordance with the limited grounds for compassionate release of super. This normally occurs within 14 days (28 days for paper applications). We can't provide you with a progress update during this period.

While assessing your application, we may contact you or third-party providers about the evidence you provided, particularly if there is incomplete or missing information. This includes validating expenses in the invoices and quotes, and the information provided in reports.

Once we have assessed your application, we will let you know the outcome by either phone or SMS text message and you will receive a letter in your myGov inboxExternal Link or via post if you apply on a paper form. You will also be able to access our letter on ATO online services under communication history. Our letter may take up to 72 hours to arrive (or more if it is sent by post).

If your application is successful, we will send a copy of the approval letter to your super fund, who you will then need to contact directly to release your super.

How to withdraw your application

You can't amend your application after it has been submitted.

To withdraw an application, contact us and provide us with your application reference number.

If your application is approved

Release of your super

If your application is approved, once you receive our approval letter, you must contact your super fund to arrange release of your money.

You'll need to provide your fund with a copy of our approval letter to process your payment. The letter can only be used to release one lump sum payment. You should wait for your approval letter before contacting your super fund to arrange for release of the approved amount.

Your super fund will automatically deduct the tax from your super account. See Tax on super benefits and Super lump sum tax table for more information.

Super funds have their own processes and timeframes for releasing money from super. If you need to know how long it will take for your fund to release your money, you will need to ask them. We don't have any role in determining how long this takes, and we can't assist you in relation to the release after we send the approval letter.

After you have received your amount

After you have received your release from your super fund, you must pay the expenses that were approved with the amount released from your super fund.

You also need to keep your receipts for the paid expense as you may need to provide this information to us.

Your super fund will also issue you a payment summary that will display the amount released from your super balance and the tax withheld.

When lodging your income tax return for the relevant financial year, you need to include any taxable amounts shown on the payment summary. If any releases from your super are not pre-filled when completing your income tax return, you need to manually include these as per the payment summary.

If your application is not approved

You'll receive a letter advising the reason/s your application was not approved. We will also try to contact you via phone to explain our decision.

The reasons for non-approval generally fall into the following categories:

  • You did not meet eligibility conditions. If you or the expense you applied for are ineligible (because, for example, you paid the expense without borrowing money). Submitting further applications or a review request will result in the same outcome.
  • If your application was not approved because you didn't provide sufficient evidence, you need to submit a new application with all the required documentation. If you request a review of our decision without providing additional evidence, it generally will be unsuccessful.
  • If your application was partially approved and you have new evidence, you need to submit a new application with the required documentation for the additional amount.

If you don't understand our decision or believe we have made a mistake under the law, you can contact us so we can explain our decision.

Request a review of our decision

If after contacting us, you consider that we made a decision that was incorrect based on the information in your application, you can request a review of our decision.

Generally you must submit your request within 14 days of the date of the original decision letter. In your review request, you need to specify why you believe our decision is incorrect.

For instructions on requesting a review, see Compassionate release of superannuation – request for review of decision.



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