Support in difficult times | Australian Taxation Office


Taxpayers experience financial difficulties for a number of reasons, including unexpected life events such as natural disaster, mental health issues, serious illness, family and domestic violence, challenging economic conditions, financial misfortune, and family tragedy.

These unexpected life events or difficult circumstances can also affect your mental health and wellbeing.

Depending on your circumstances, we may be able to offer additional help.

On this page:

Getting support

We’re committed to helping those who need help with their tax and super obligations and entitlements in difficult times.

Phone us between 8.00am and 6.00pm, Monday to Friday, on:

If you would prefer someone else to speak to us on your behalf:

For immediate mental health and wellbeing support:

  • phone Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

If you think that someone has stolen or misused your identity:

  • contact our Client Identity Support Centre on 1800 467 033 (between 8.00am and 6.00pm, Monday–Friday) to help you establish your tax identity.

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Support for different circumstances

We recognise the pressure taxpayers are under when dealing with unexpected life events such as:


If you, or your business, has been financially affected by COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), we can help with a range of options.

For help:

  • phone 1800 806 218 between 8.00am and 6.00pm, Monday to Friday
  • speak to your registered tax professional.

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Family and domestic violence

We understand the importance of access to confidential help and assistance for those experiencing family and domestic violence.

If you’re experiencing family or domestic violence, you can have difficulty providing all your documents to establish your identity. If you’re facing risk of serious harm, we can help you to apply for a new TFN.

Phone us on 13 28 61 for assistance with payment deferrals, penalty remissions, access to super, priority processing, or to seek consideration of less, or alternative, documentation for your identity.

Next step:

  • For immediate assistance, phone 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732

Deceased estates

When a person dies, there are some important tax and superannuation issues for the legal personal representative and others dealing with the deceased person’s tax affairs.

We may receive information from other government agencies notifying us that someone has died. We will use this information to update our records. However, it is a good idea to let us know if you want to tell us of the appointment of the legal personal representative. Or, if any of the following applies:

  • the deceased person had a tax file number (TFN)
  • the deceased person has ever lodged a tax return
  • the deceased person should have lodged a tax return.

We cannot provide legal advice on deceased estate matters that do not involve taxation or superannuation.

When a person dies, in most cases their superannuation provider pays their remaining super to their nominated beneficiary. Super paid after a person’s death is called a ‘super death benefit’. Different tax treatment applies depending on whether the super death benefit is paid as an income stream, a lump sum or a mixture of both, and if the beneficiaries or beneficiary are classified as dependant under superannuation law.

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Natural disasters and drought

If you are affected by drought, or a natural disaster such as a cyclone, flood, bushfire or storm, we will give you time to recover and help you to sort out your tax affairs when you are ready.

We can help with:

  • faster processing of any tax refunds owing
  • reconstructing records
  • non-taxable treatment of insurance payouts
  • fuel tax credits and zone offsets.

If you’re experiencing financial hardship as a result of a disaster, you may receive a relief payment from:

  • local, state or federal government agencies
  • a charity or community group
  • your employer.

Most one-off assistance payments are tax-free.

For assistance:

  • phone us on 1800 806 218 between 8.00am and 6.00pm, Monday to Friday
  • speak to your tax professional.

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Accessing super

Normally you can only access your super early in limited circumstances. These circumstances are mainly related to specific medical conditions or severe financial hardship, such as:

To find out more about conditions related to early or compassionate release of your super:

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Financial impact of COVID-19

Individuals financially affected by COVID-19 can access some of their superannuation early. Eligible individuals will not need to pay tax on amounts released and will not need to include it in their tax return.

You can apply through ATO online services in myGov.

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Medical treatment or expenses

You may be eligible for compassionate release of super to pay for necessary medical treatment or medical transport expenses for you or your dependant, where the treatment is not readily available through the public health system, for:

  • a life threatening illness or injury
  • acute or chronic pain
  • acute or chronic mental illness.

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Terminal illness

You may be eligible for compassionate release of super to pay for necessary medical treatment or medical transport expenses for you or your dependant, for treatment not readily available through the public health system, for either:

  • a life threatening illness or injury
  • acute or chronic pain
  • acute or chronic mental illness.

Discuss your situation with your super fund or provider first. You will need to ensure the rules are met before your super can be paid to you.

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Passing of a dependant or loved one

If your dependant or loved one has recently passed away, you may be eligible for early access to your super on compassionate grounds to help meet the costs of unpaid expenses associated with a dependant’s funeral, burial and death expenses.

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Unable to work

Temporary incapacity

You may be able to access your super if you are temporarily unable to work or need to work fewer hours because of a physical or mental medical condition. This condition of release is generally used to release insurance benefits from a super fund.

You will receive the super in regular payments (income stream) over the time you are unable to work. A super withdrawal due to temporary incapacity is taxed as a normal super income stream.

Contact your super fund to request access to your super due to temporary incapacity.

Permanent incapacity

You may be able to access your super if you are permanently incapacitated. This type of super withdrawal is sometimes called a ‘disability super benefit’.

You have a permanent incapacity if the trustee is satisfied you have a permanent physical or mental medical condition likely to stop you from ever working again in a job you were qualified to do by education, training or experience. At least two medical practitioners must certify this for you to receive concessional tax treatment.

You can receive the super as either a lump sum or as regular payments (income stream).

Contact your super fund to request access to your super if you have a permanent incapacity.

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Severe financial hardship

If you have received eligible government income support payments continuously for 26 weeks and are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses, you may be able to withdraw some of your super. In this situation:

  • super withdrawn due to severe financial hardship is paid and taxed as a super lump sum
  • the minimum amount you can be paid is $1,000 (unless your super balance is less than $1,000) and the maximum amount is $10,000
  • you can only make one withdrawal from your super fund in any 12-month period.

Contact your super fund to request access to your super due to severe financial hardship.

Services Australia can provide a letter confirming you received an eligible income support payment for the required period.

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Temporary residents

If you have worked and earned superannuation (super) while visiting Australia on a temporary visa, you can apply to have this super paid to you as a departing Australia superannuation payment (DASP) after you leave.

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Understanding your tax obligations

Earning income from a variety of sources including salary and wages, the sharing economy, government benefits, and investments will affect how much you are taxed.

You may receive a tax bill if you:

  • are an employee, and the correct amount of tax hasn’t been withheld from the payments made to you by your employer
  • are a sole trader and haven’t paid enough tax throughout the year
  • receive other income where no tax was withheld (for example – Centrelink benefits).

To talk to us about your tax obligations and entitlements, phone 13 28 61.

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Help getting back on track

If you are struggling to manage your tax obligations or pay your tax, we can work with you to find a solution tailored to your situation and help you get back on track.

If you’re having trouble, it’s important to contact us early so we can help you. It’s never too late to speak with us.

Depending on your circumstances, we may be able to:

  • set up an affordable payment plan
  • fast track any tax refund owing to you
  • defer a compulsory repayment (for example – Higher Education Loan Program)
  • defer your lodgment
  • prevent any tax refund you may be due to receive from being used to pay debts with other government organisations
  • in special circumstances, we can release you from paying some taxes if paying the taxes would cause serious hardship.

Phone us on 13 11 42 between 8.00am and 6.00pm, Monday to Friday, to discuss your situation.

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Support during serious hardship

You are considered to be in financial hardship if you’re unable to provide necessities such as food, accommodation, clothing, education and medical treatment for yourself, your family or other dependents as a result of situations such as:

  • loss of employment
  • housing crisis
  • facing eviction or disconnection of essential services like water, electricity or gas
  • marriage or relationship breakdown severely affecting your financial circumstances.

If you’re experiencing serious hardship, we may be able to assist by:

  • releasing you from some, or all, of your tax debt
  • processing your tax return as a priority

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Tailored support for different needs

There is a range of support available for people with diverse and differing needs, including:

People with disabilities and carers

We can offer a range of support services, offsets and concessions to help you and your carers.

If you’re receiving a disability or carer’s support payment, you may be eligible for tax and superannuation concessions and exemptions. We can provide information on:

  • pensions, allowance and other payments, like the disability support pension, the child disability allowance, the carer adjustment payment, Veterans’ Affairs disability pensions and more that are exempt from tax
  • tax-free NDIS payments
  • tax offsets, like the Dependent (invalid and carer) tax offset
  • tax concessions when you buy, lease or modify a car with medical aids and appliances
  • special disability trusts to provide for your future care and accommodation needs
  • in specific circumstances, early access to your super
  • support services including
    • information and services in accessible formats, like publications and videos shopfronts and phone services
    • Tax Help volunteers to help you complete your tax return.


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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

We want to make tax and super as easy as possible for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, businesses and not-for-profit organisations, by offering:

For more information, phone the ATO Indigenous Helpline on 13 10 30.

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Culturally and linguistically diverse

If you are experiencing difficult circumstances that are causing you financial hardship or affecting your mental health and wellbeing, contact us to discuss support options.

We have information in languages other than English to help people from non-English speaking backgrounds understand tax and superannuation (super) in Australia.

To find out more about our support options in your language:

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Support for Tax Professionals

We understand you sometimes need additional help and assistance in managing your clients’ and your own tax obligations. We can therefore support you and your clients during difficult times through a range of support options such as:

  • lodgment help program
  • serious hardship or adverse circumstances
  • complex issue resolution service, and
  • cash flow coaching kit
  • online access to deceased estate information.

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Support for small businesses

Everyday pressures, unexpected life circumstances, stress, depression or anxiety can have a negative impact on your quality of life and ability to run your business. This can affect the people who are involved with your business, including employees, contractors, partners and clients.

If you’re having difficulty paying your tax, contact us as early as possible. We may be able to help you:

  • set up a payment plan
  • defer a lodgment or payment
  • fast track your tax return.

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We offer a range of tools and services to help all small business owners get their tax and super right, including an after-hours call back at a time that suits you.

To find out more about the support small business, owners can access:

  • phone 13 28 66
  • Supporting your business with our calculators, tools and services designed to help you get your tax and super right
  • ask an authorised contact or your tax professional to speak to us on your behalf.


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