Jul 7, 2024

Early access to super for dental work

The Dental Board of Australia has raised concerns regarding growing reports of dental practitioners encouraging patients to access super in order to fund their dental care. Administered by the ATO under conditions set out in the regulations, access to the compassionate release of superannuation program has 5 main grounds of eligibility, one being medical treatment. Under the law, for super to be released, a medical treatment must be necessary to: treat a life-threatening illness or injury; alleviate acute or chronic pain; or alleviate acute or alleviate acute or chronic mental illness. 

Applications for medical treatment expenses require 2 medical reports (at least one from a treating specialist) accompanying the application and stating that the treatment is necessary to alleviate or treat one of the above conditions and is not readily available in the public health system. Statistics for applications received and approved for medical treatment by the ATO under compassionate grounds for the 2022-23 financial year show a significant rise for dental treatment when compared to the other subcategories (ie IVF, weight loss and “other” medical treatments recommended by a medical practitioner). 

Applications for super to be released for dental treatment were approved by the ATO to the amount of $313.4m in the 2022-23 financial year – a significant jump from $171.3m in the previous financial year, and from $66.4m in the 2018-2019 financial year. Dr Murray Thomas, Dental Board of Australia chair, said that the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) has received a small number of notifications about patients using super to access dental services – including recommendations and advertising to patients to access their super, and the refusal by several practitioners to assist a patient in accessing their super – and expressed concern that, with the rapid increase of patients accessing their super for dental treatment in recent years, more complaints may forthcoming. Dr Thomas indicated that the Board is acting now in order to reduce the number of potential complaints by reminding practitioners of the right of patients to necessary, appropriate, and beneficial healthcare, and compliance with advertising requirements under the law when promoting the compassionate release of super for treatment. 

The preparation of reports by practitioners supporting the release of super on compassionate grounds also needs to comply with the Board’s Code of Conduct in the provision of accurate and honest information to the ATO. Providing misleading information to support a patient’s request to access super could incur disciplinary action from the Board in addition to any action deemed necessary by the ATO. If you are faced with expensive dental (or other medical) treatments and find your practitioner suggesting that you could fund it through an application for the compassionate release of your super, either through a direct application to the ATO or via a third-party company that “facilitates” such applications for a fee, it’s a good idea to seek further advice – both medical and financial. Get a second opinion on the cost of the treatment involved. Talk to a financial adviser and get a thorough understanding of what’s involved and what the consequences of accessing your super early could be.

Speak to one of our accountants if you have any questions about the changes in tax for 2024.