When you’re short of cash, your super balance can look pretty appealing…
And you may have seen advertisements promoting schemes to help you get access to your super.
Problem solved, right? Wrong.
Getting early access to your super could end up creating more problems than it solves.
Access to super is restricted
Generally speaking, you can’t access your super until you reach your preservation age and/or retire, or reach age 65.
There are avenues for legally accessing your super on financial hardship or compassionate grounds but only if you meet strict conditions set out under superannuation law and by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).
But what about those ads?
Many early access schemes involve outright fraud.
Promoters of these schemes typically demand a large commission, usually taking a fifth or more of your super.
They may get you to rollover your superannuation into a self-managed super fund and then sign false statements in order to meet the conditions required for release, exposing you to fines or even jail.
If you finally do get what’s left of your money, you could end up having to pay a sizable portion of it to the Australian Taxation Office in unpaid tax and penalties, because you didn’t keep it until you retired.
Not just idle threats
ASIC has successfully prosecuted numerous cases involving unlawful early access to super, with a number of individuals receiving jail terms.
In a recent case, the trustee of a self-managed super fund received a two-year sentence for distributing the proceeds of the fund to members who hadn’t satisfied a condition of release (and for retaining a $600,000 commission for himself).
If you are genuinely suffering financial hardship, you should apply to the trustee of your superannuation fund and ask for a financial hardship application.
If you think you may have compassionate grounds for accessing your super, you should apply to APRA.
Full details of the conditions that need to be met for either financial hardship or compassionate grounds for release are available by going to www.apra.gov.au/superannuation/ and selecting ‘Early release of superannuation fund benefits’.
If you need further information regarding whether you qualify for early release, or if you have any doubts regarding an early release scheme, speak to your adviser.