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What's the meaning of compassionate grounds?

Compassionate grounds is one way to withdraw some of your super before you retire. You may be able to use it if you can't pay for medical or funeral expenses or if the bank is selling your home.

It's different to taking out some of your super when you're in severe financial hardship.

Who can apply?

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) controls who is allowed to access super early on compassionate grounds.

You can apply to the ATO if you need to pay for:

Medical treatment or medical transport for you or a dependant

Costs to modify your home or vehicle for a disability, or disability aids for you or a dependant

Repayments on your mortgage or council rates so you don't lose your home

Palliative care (end-of-life care for a terminal medical condition) for you or a dependant

Funeral and burial/cremation expenses for your dependant (e.g. a spouse or child)

To check whether you're eligible to apply, visit the ATO website or call them on 13 10 20.

Early release of super for dental treatment

You can apply for the release of super under compassionate grounds for dental expenses if they're medically necessary and you have no other way to pay for them.

The ATO considers dental treatment on a case-by-case basis, and says they only release super in limited circumstances.

How to apply for compassionate release of super

Apply with the ATO form

To apply for early access to your super, log in to myGov and use the ATO's early release of super compassionate grounds form. You'll need proof that you meet their eligibility criteria:

  • You have unpaid expenses, e.g. invoices, bills, or quotes.
  • You haven't yet paid for these expenses, e.g. no loan, credit card, or money borrowed from others.
  • You can't afford to pay for these expenses any other way.
  • You're an Australian or New Zealand citizen or permanent resident.
The ATO looks at your application

It can take up to 28 days for the ATO to approve or reject your application.

The ATO will send you a letter and if they've approved your application, they'll tell you how much you can take out of your super after tax.

If your application is approved

Forward your letter of approval from the ATO (or a certified copy) to us, together with our Early Release of Super on Compassionate Grounds form.

How long does compassionate release of super take?

The ATO says it normally takes 14 days to assess your application (or 28 days if you post a paper application), and then another 3 days to send you their decision.

Once we've processed your form, we'll pay your super into the bank account you listed on your form.

When you withdraw super early for compassionate grounds, unfortunately there is additional tax (see the ATO website for details). Because of this, we'll withdraw enough from your super so that your bank account gets the approved amount after tax.

While you're waiting

The ATO can take as long as a month to approve or reject your request. If they approve it, then your super fund still has to process the request and send your super to your bank account.

So in the meantime, check our list of support services who can help, such as the National Debt Helpline for free financial counselling and the Salvation Army for food and transport vouchers.

Use the compassionate release of super form

If you've received an ATO approval letter, you can send us our compassionate release of super form. Please contact us with any questions.