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How much tax you pay every time you fill up your car in South Africa

Roughly a third of the cost of every litre of petrol in South Africa comes from various taxes and levies, which adds hundreds of rands to the cost of filling up even the smallest car.

Consequently, depending on the size of your tank, you will pay anywhere from R225 to R600 just in tax to fill up with petrol on your next trip to the pumps.

Temporary relief for long-term price pain

South Africans were recently given a small measure of relief when it was announced that the General Fuel Levy (GFL) and Road Accident Fund (RAF) Levy would not be adjusted for 2024, but road users are nonetheless still paying a significant sum to the government with every litre of fuel purchased.

Prior to Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s 2024 Budget Speech, many economists predicted that the GFL and RAF Levy would be increased this year, as these were not adjusted the year prior.

Despite these predictions, the two levies were kept static, which Godongwana claims will result in a tax relief to consumers estimated at around R4 billion.

In fact, the RAF Levy has been untouched for four years in a row owing to relief measures that were first put in place during the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is therefore still sitting at R2.18 per litre for all grades of fuel.

While this is great news for consumers, these tariffs still play a big role in the final price felt at the pump, as there are no less than six different taxes and levies placed on all fuels, comprising:

  • Customs and Excise Duty
  • General Fuel Levy
  • IP Tracer Levy
  • Petroleum Products Levy
  • Road Accident Fund Levy
  • Slate Levy

The GFL is the largest contributor at R3.96 per litre, which equates to 17% of the final price of petrol.

This is followed by the RAF Levy, which may not have increased in four years, but was nonetheless sitting at R1.04 per litre in 2014, meaning it has more than doubled in the last decade to reach R2.18 per litre.

Combined, these various add-ons contribute R7.52 per litre to every litre, way more than the R4.09 per litre it was sitting at in 2014.

The result of all of these separate increases is that the taxes on local petrol have gone up by a collective 72% since the 2014 financial year.

For a better sense of what this is costing you at the station, here is a table displaying the tax cost of refilling different tank sizes based on February 2024’s rate of R21.68 per litre for petrol 95.

Tank size Cost to refill Tax paid
30 litres R650.40 R225.60
40 litres R867.20 R300.80
50 litres R1,084.00 R376.00
60 litres R1,300.80 R451.20
70 litres R1,517.60 R526.40
80 litres R1,734.40 R601.60

Important to note is that these taxes do not include the retail and wholesale margins for distributors which is pegged at R3.15 per litre.

We also need to consider the Basic Fuel Price (BFP), which is what a litre costs to insure, import, and transport across South Africa before any additional fees are tacked on, and is the main determiner of what the precious liquid will ultimately cost.

The BFP is based on international oil prices and the rand/dollar exchange rate, and it rose from R7.25 per litre in 2014 to an average of R12.72 per litre in the 2023-2024 financial year – an increase of 56%.

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