A: Generally, you cannot access your superannuation before reaching your preservation age and satisfying a condition of release such as retirement.

As you were born after 1964, your Superannuation preservation age is 60.

There are limited circumstances that would allow early access to super including permanent incapacity or terminal illness.

In addition to the above, a superannuation fund trustee may release funds if you are suffering severe financial hardship.

In order to be granted early release on the basis of severe financial hardship, you would need to be able to provide written evidence that you have been on Government income support for at least 26 consecutive weeks, and be in receipt of that income support at the time of application for early release.

You would also need to demonstrate that you are unable to meet reasonable and immediate living expenses.

If you qualify under severe financial hardship, your superannuation fund can release a minimum of $1,000 up to a maximum gross amount of $10,000. Note early superannuation withdrawals will incur tax on the taxable amount of your benefit of 20 per cent (plus Medicare Levy) as you are under preservation age.

If you do not qualify on the basis of severe financial hardship, you may be able to apply to the Department of Human Services to access your super on specified compassionate grounds. Compassionate grounds could include situations such as: preventing foreclosure on your home by a lending institution; medical treatment for yourself or your family; modifications to the family home to accommodate disability; palliative care and funeral expenses for a dependent.

Note that payments for loans, credit cards and expenses not directly related to the grounds for compassionate release are ineligible for consideration. There are no limits to the release of funds for compassionate grounds other than for mortgages that are limited to loan arrears, three months’ worth of future loan repayments and 12 months interest in advance. Tax is still payable on benefits received. Full details are available atwww.humanservices.gov.au or phone 1300 131 060.

Unless you have been receiving Government income support for at least 26 weeks, are currently receiving this income support, and have reasonable and immediate living expenses that you would be unable to meet, it is unlikely that you would be eligible to access your superannuation at this time.

Similarly, at this time it would appear that you would not satisfy the requirements for a release of superannuation funds on compassionate grounds.

Q:  I was born in the UK but have lived in Australia for the past 23 years.  I am planning on moving back to the UK permanently.  Can I withdraw my Australian Superannuation?  I am 54 years old.  What tax would I pay?

A:  Even though you will be departing Australia permanently, you will be ineligible to withdraw your Superannuation as you will not satisfy a Superannuation condition of release and you have not reached your preservation age.

Access to Superannuation benefits before preservation age for those permanently departing Australia, is limited to those who are temporary resident visa holders only.  Given you were an adult, being over 18 when you arrived in Australia, I assume you are an Australian Permanent Resident.

Australian citizens and permanent residents are obliged to retain their Australian Superannuation until they reach preservation age or satisfy another condition of release.  Revocation of Citizenship or Permanent Residency would not change this outcome.

To meet a condition of release for Superannuation you would need to; reach age 65, retire after attaining your preservation age of 60 and cease gainful employment with the intention never to return to gainful employment on a part-time or full-time basis, or be assessed as Permanently Disabled or be Terminally ill.

If you held a temporary resident visa holder, you would be able to apply for a Departing Australia Superannuation Payment (DASP) on declaring your permanent departure from Australia.  DASP is taxed at 35% on the Taxable Component of the Superannuation benefit. Please note for those on a working holiday visa (417) and (462) the tax rate on withdrawal is 65%.

Until you either reach age 65 or satisfy an alternative condition of release as described, you will be unable to access your Australian Superannuation funds until those conditions are met.