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General Provisions for Assessing Withdrawals of Superannuation Benefits
Principles for assessing withdrawals from superannuation assets
The income and assets test assessments of a withdrawal from superannuation assets depends on:
- whether the superannuation assets are in the accumulation phase or draw down phase, and
- the pensioner's age.
Income and assets assessment of withdrawals in the drawdown phase
A withdrawal made during the drawdown phase is considered to be a commutation. Commutations are assessed under the income streams rules.
Assets test assessment of withdrawals in the accumulation phase
The assets test assessment of a withdrawal from a superannuation fund depends on how the amount withdrawn is used. For example, if invested in bank account it becomes a financial asset, if used to pay the mortgage of the principal home it becomes exempt. If the person has not reached preservation age, withdrawal is allowed only on financial hardship or compassionate grounds. It is likely in these cases that there will be no impact as the amount withdrawn would likely be spent on living expenses or similar.
Income test assessment of withdrawals in the accumulation phase
Withdrawals from superannuation in the accumulation phase are not assessed as income.
The accumulation phase is the period during a person's working life in which superannuation contributions are paid into a superannuation fund, with the aim of maximising the sum available for retirement through investment and tax concessions.
The draw down phase is the period, after retirement from the workforce, when a person receives regular payments of superannuation benefits from their superannuation fund or an income stream product.
One element of the means test for income support pensions whereby the rate of pension payable to a pensioner reduces progressively as their assets increase above a certain threshold known as the assets value limit (AVL).
A superannuation fund is defined in the VEA as being:
- a fund that is or has been a complying superannuation fund within the meaning of section 45 of the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 in relation to any tax year; or
- an Australian superannuation fund (within the meaning of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997) that is not a complying superannuation fund mentioned in paragraph (a) in relation to any tax year; or
- a scheme for the payment of benefits upon retirement or death that is constituted by or under a law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory; or
- an RSA within the meaning of the Retirement Savings Accounts Act 1997; or
- any of the following funds (unless the fund is a foreign superannuation fund):
- a fund to which paragraph 23(jaa), or section 23FC, 121CC or 121DAB, of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (as in force at any time before the commencement of section 1 of the Taxation Laws Amendment Act (No. 2) 1989) has applied in relation to any tax year;
- a fund to which paragraph 23(ja), or section 23F or 23FB, of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (as in force at any time before the commencement of paragraph (a) of the definition of superannuation fund in former subsection 27A(1) of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936) has applied in relation to the tax year that started on 1 July 1985 or an earlier tax year;
- a fund to which section 79 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (as in force at any time before 25 June 1984) has applied in relation to the tax year that started on 1 July 1983 or an earlier tax year.
The principal home has the meaning given by subsection 5LA(1) of the VEA and subsection 5LA(2) of the VEA. The principal home of a person is generally the place in which they reside. In certain circumstances, however, the principal home of a person can be the place in which they formerly resided. The following property is regarded as part of the principal home.
- the residence itself (e.g. house, flat, caravan),
- permanent fixtures (e.g. stoves, built-in heaters, dish-washers, light fittings and affixed carpets),
- [glossary:curtilage:DEF/Curtilage] (i.e. two hectares or less of private land around the home where the private land use test has been satisfied, or all land held on the same title as the person's principal home where the extended land use test has been satisfied), or
- any garage, shed, tennis court or swimming pool used primarily for private purposes provided it is on the same title as the principal home.