What are the tax implications of withdrawing from my superannuation in retirement?

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) defines your eligibility to access your super based on your preservation age. This age increases gradually and currently sits at 60 for those born after July 1st, 1964. Once you reach your preservation age, you have the freedom to withdraw your super as a lump sum, commence an income stream, or opt for a combination of both.

Tax Treatment of Lump Sums

  • Aged 60 or Over: The most favourable scenario arises when you’re 60 or above. Lump sum withdrawals from taxed super funds (the most common type) are generally tax-free. This means you retain the full amount without any deductions for tax.
  • Under 60: If you’re under 60 and considering a lump sum withdrawal, tax implications become more complex. There are two thresholds to consider:
    • Low-Rate Cap: Up to a specific amount, currently $235,000 (indexed annually), qualifies for a tax rate of 17% (including Medicare levy) – significantly lower than the marginal tax rate for most individuals.
    • Amounts Above the Cap: Any amount withdrawn exceeding the low-rate cap is taxed at your marginal tax rate or 17% (including Medicare levy), whichever is lower.

Taxation of Super Income Streams

Income streams, often referred to as pensions or annuities, provide you with regular payments from your super balance. The tax treatment depends on your age:

  • Aged 60 or Over: Similar to lump sums, income stream payments from taxed super funds are generally tax-free for those aged 60 and above.
  • Under 60: For individuals under 60 receiving an income stream, the tax treatment gets categorized:
    • Tax-Free Component: This portion of your income stream, accumulated from contributions made before a certain date (generally before July 1st, 2007), is tax-free.
    • Taxed Component: The remaining portion, typically from contributions made after the aforementioned date, is taxed at 15% (plus Medicare levy).

Special Considerations

  • Untaxed Super Funds: If your super savings reside in an untaxed fund (common for public sector employees), the tax implications for withdrawals differ. It’s advisable to consult a tax professional or your super fund for specific details.
  • Defined Benefit Income Streams: These income streams offer a fixed regular payment throughout your retirement. Tax treatment for defined benefit income streams can be complex, and exceeding a specific cap (defined benefit income cap) might result in a higher tax rate on the untaxed component.

Maximizing Your Tax Advantage

  • Considering Your Age: The tax benefits are significantly greater for those aged 60 and above. If possible, delaying your super withdrawal until you reach this age can lead to substantial tax savings.
  • Lump Sum vs. Income Stream: Each option has its merits. Lump sums offer immediate access to capital, while income streams provide a steady income flow throughout retirement. Consider your financial needs and risk tolerance when making this decision.
  • Tax Offsets: The government offers tax offsets to help reduce your tax liability on super income streams. These offsets can further enhance the tax-effectiveness of your retirement income.

Seeking Professional Guidance

Superannuation regulations can be intricate, and navigating the tax implications requires careful consideration. Consulting a qualified financial advisor or tax professional is highly recommended. They can analyze your specific situation, including your age, super balance, and income stream options, and help you develop a tax-efficient strategy for accessing your super in retirement.


Understanding the tax implications of withdrawing your super is essential for a smooth transition into retirement. By considering your age, withdrawal options, and potential tax benefits, you can make informed decisions to maximize the value of your super savings and enjoy a financially secure retirement. Remember, seeking professional guidance can ensure you navigate the complexities of superannuation taxation effectively.


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