Accessing super due to COVID-19 hardship

On 22 March 2020, the Federal Government announced it will temporarily allow eligible people to access up to $10,000 of their superannuation retirement savings in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21.

For eligible people suffering economic hardship, being able to access part of their super will help them provide for themselves and their families during these unprecedented times.  At the same time, it is important to be aware of the longer-term financial implications of such a decision.

Eligibility for early release of superannuation COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)

Federal government requirements for early release of super to individuals affected by COVID-19 include any one or more of the following: 

  • you are unemployed; or 
  • you are eligible to receive a job seeker payment, youth allowance for jobseekers, parenting payment (which includes the single and partnered payments), special benefit or farm household allowance; or
  • on or after 1 January 2020: 
    • you were made redundant; or 
    • your working hours were reduced by 20 per cent or more; or 
    • if you are a sole trader, your business was suspended or there was a reduction in your turnover of 20 per cent or more. 

Not tax will be deducted from any such amounts released and amounts withdrawn will not affect Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs payments.

How to apply

Importantly, the Federal government has advised applications will be possible from “from mid-April 2020” when the necessary systems are in place. 

Right now, the Federal government, Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and super funds are working as quickly as possible to put in place the necessary systems and procedures.

Our understanding of the application process includes the following steps:
    

  1. Apply on-line to the ATO via the myGov website. You can not apply directly to your super fund.  You will be required to certify that you meet the above eligibility criteria.  In recent days due to high numbers of people trying to access the myGov website there have been periods during which access has been limited.
  2. Once the ATO has approved your application, they will issue a determination to you and to your super fund.
  3. Your super fund will then make arrangements for the amount to be paid to you. You may wish to contact your fund to confirm your personal details are up to date (including current bank account information and proof of identity documents), 

Further guidance will be available on the ATO website.

Separate arrangements apply if you are a member of a Self-Managed Super Fund.   Further guidance will be available on the ATO website: www.ato.gov.au.

The longer-term financial implications of accessing super early

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic brings the world unparalleled and previously unimaginable challenges and the community needs to come together and we need to support and help each other.

Super funds are now working with government to as quickly as possible implement its “Early access to superannuation” scheme to support members during these incredibly difficult times.

Those contemplating withdrawing an amount from their super should also have regard for the longer-term financial implications of such a decision.

These financial implications essentially have to do with the investment earnings foregone in respect of amounts withdrawn.  Impacts include the following:

  1. Over the longer-term, investment earnings compound over time boosting your super balance.
  2. Lower tax rates for super further boost your super balance.
  3. The market value of many shares and other investments has fallen very substantially.  By withdrawing from super while market values are low, losses are realised and locked in, rather than remaining unrealised with the likelihood that a future return in markets will occur and improve your savings. 

Each of the above mean that an early withdrawal from your super will result in a reduction in how much super you will have in retirement.

To put this in perspective, independent body Super Consumers Australia, which is a division of consumer advocacy group Choice, was reported in The Guardian Australia on 24 March 2020 as saying that drawing down the maximum $20,000 over two years via the “Early access to superannuation” scheme could cost about $50,000 in retirement income, which for many people would cover a year’s worth of living expenses.

For completeness, if you are not eligible for the COVID-19 coronavirus early release benefit, the other options for withdrawing your super, contact your super fund. Information about these other options is available from legalsuper’s website in the Accessing Your Money section.

legalsuper’s Client Service Managers continue to be available during this difficult time to answer questions or provide information about super.  We are working co-operatively and quickly with the Federal Government and ATO to ensure timely and smooth implementation of the “Early access to superannuation” scheme.  We are also developing more information and resources for members to assist them during this period which can be found on our website.

If you would like to discuss the “Early access to superannuation” scheme, or any other aspect of your super, our staff are ready to assist, either by telephone on 1800 060 312 or via email.

 

This information is of a general nature only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs.  You should therefore consider the appropriateness of the information and obtain and read the relevant legalsuper Product Disclosure Statement before making any decision.
Legal Super Pty Ltd ABN 37 004 455 789, AFSL 246315 is the Trustee of legalsuper ABN 60 346 078 879.

 


 

About the Author
Chief Executive, legalsuper

Andrew Proebstl is Chief Executive of legalsuper, Australia’s industry super fund for the legal community. He can be contacted on ph 03 9602 0101 or via aproebstl@legalsuper.com.au