How much tax you pay when you fill your car with petrol

Many South African motorists pay between R282 and R501 in taxes when refuelling their petrol car’s tank from empty to full.

A substantial portion of the price of petrol and diesel in South Africa is made up of taxes which end up in the government’s coffers.

While the Basic Fuel Price (BFP) for 95 unleaded petrol for September 2021 was about R8.17, the total inland price is currently R18.34 when taxes and other costs are added.

The two biggest contributors are the general fuel levy (GFL) and Road Accident Fund (RAF) levy, which have increased substantially over the last few years.

The GFL is used to fund general government expenditure programmes, while the RAF levy contributes to a government-managed fund for claims of medical costs if a motorist is the victim of an accident caused by the wrongful driving of another person.

The Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) and Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) are two of the most vocal opponents of the increases in these taxes, which have been above inflation over the last few years.

From April 2021, the GFL and RAF levy cost R6.11 per litre of petrol, up 39% from the R4.39 five years ago. This is well above inflation of about 23.6% over the same period.

In addition to these levies, a demand-side management levy and customs and excise tax are added to the price.

The remaining cost is made up of transportation, storage, and distribution costs, as well as wholesale and retail margins.

In the current financial year, the following taxes apply per litre of 95 unleaded petrol:

  • General Fuel Levy – R3.93
  • Road Accident Fund Levy – R2.18
  • Customs and excise tax – R0.04
  • Demand-side management levy – R0.10
  • Other levies – R0.01

This means that around R6.26 of every litre of petrol you purchase is tax.

In August and September, the government also added a slate levy of 6.58 cents and 15.36 cents, respectively. However, these amounts do not go to the government’s coffers but are paid to the fuel companies.

It compensates for small imbalances that can accumulate due to the difference between the monthly averages on which the BFP is calculated and the actual dates on which fuel companies perform transactions.

The slate levy, therefore, is excluded when calculating how much money goes directly to the government.

We’ve calculated how much tax motorists will pay when filling typical fuel tanks in a hatchback, sedan, and large SUV.

Our calculations showed that tax makes up between 34.1% and 35.5% of the total fuel price, depending on whether you fill up inland or on the coast.

95 unleaded petrol prices
Tank size and type of car Total price per tank – inland  Total price per tank – coast Total tax per tank
45-litre – Hatchback R825.30 R792.90 R281.70
60-litre – Sedan R1,100.40 R1,075.20 R375.60
80-litre – Large SUV R1,467.20 R1,409.60 R500.80

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How much tax you pay when you fill your car with petrol