Budget 2015: New Income Tax Tables

Revenue trends and tax policy

Below is the latest on income tax tables, to view the full pdf – Click Here

In brief

  • Nominal gross tax revenue for 2013/14 amounted to R900 billion, a 10.6 per cent or R86.2 billion increase from the prior year.
  • The 2014 Budget projected 10.5 per cent growth in tax revenues for 2014/15. This has been revised down to 8.8 per cent, reflecting weaker-than-expected economic growth.
  • The 2015 tax proposals reflect government’s commitment to stabilise the fiscus, while ensuring that the tax system remains fair, efficient and progressive.
  • The main proposals are to raise personal income tax rates for all but the lowest tax bracket by one percentage point, and to increase the fuel levies by a total of 80.5 c/litre.
  • Reforms will improve the turnover regime for small business and support greater energy efficiency.


An efficient and progressive tax system is a cornerstone of South Africa’s democracy, supporting the values of social solidarity as reflected in the Constitution. Tax revenues enable government to redistribute wealth, supply public services and increase domestic investment. Accordingly, the tax system needs to be fair, transparent, efficient and sufficiently flexible to adjust to changes in economic activity.

Tax revenues for 2014/15 are expected to be R14.7 billion below the 2014 Budget Review forecast and R4.6 billion below the 2014 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement forecast. This mirrors deteriorating GDP growth over the past year. The economic outlook presented in Chapter 2 projects only moderate improvements in economic growth over the medium term, and this is reflected in lower revenue estimates in 2015/16 and beyond.

The fiscal measures adopted by government include adjustments to tax policy. To ensure sustainable public finances, an increase in tax revenues is required. The main tax instruments that will be adjusted to generate additional revenues this year are personal income taxes and fuel levies. 

Budget revenue collection and outlook

Nominal gross tax revenue for 2013/14 amounted to R900 billion, a 10.6percent or R86.2 billion increase from the prior year. Revenue performance was driven by customs duties, personal income tax, corporate income tax and value-added tax (VAT). Dividends tax revenues declined for the second successive year. Mineral and petroleum royalty revenues rose sharply, reflecting the resumption of production following mining strikes, and higher prices for certain export commodities.

The 2014 Budget Review projected 10.5 per cent growth in nominal gross tax revenues for 2014/15. This has been revised down to 8.8 per cent owing to sharp falls in estimates of corporate income tax and customs duties, as shown in Table 4.1.

Income tax table

The lower customs duty and VAT revenues are mainly the result of a slowdown in imports of motor vehicles and manufacturing equipment. A misclassification of fuel levies on imported petrol and diesel has been corrected, and this revenue is now reflected under the general fuel levy. The performance of mineral and petroleum royalty revenues was adversely affected by mining sector strikes during the first half of the year, as well as a sharp decline in commodity prices. The impact of these downward revisions has been softened by upward revisions in personal income tax and dividends tax revenue. Personal income tax remains buoyant as wage settlements continue to outpace inflation.

Table 4.3 shows the actual revenue collections for 2011/12 to 2013/14, revised estimates for 2014/15 and over the medium-term.

Tax revenue as a percentage of GDP is expected to increase from 25.2 per cent in 2014/15 to 25.8 per cent in 2015/16. This reflects the 2015 Budget tax proposals, which are expected to add R16.8 billion to revenue in the next year, before accounting for fiscal drag, and carry forward over subsequent years. Combined with the lower spending ceiling, these additional revenues should be sufficient to close the structural deficit in the public finances over the medium term.

Income tax tables 2

Income tax tables 4.3

Growth, revenue trends and tax policy reforms

Tax revenue is highly sensitive to economic performance. During the first five years of South Africa’s democracy, nominal gross tax revenues grew at an annual average of 12.1 per cent. From 2001, revenue performance accelerated, buoyed by strong commodity prices and improved tax administration, with growth rates in excess of 17 per cent after 2004. The onset of the global financial crisis and the recession saw revenue decline by 4.2 per cent in 2009/10. Since then growth in tax revenues has stabilised, but weakening economic performance has led to slowing revenue growth.

From 1994/95 to 1999/2000 tax revenue averaged 22.8 per cent of GDP. Improvements in tax administration, the introduction of capital gains tax and higher corporate profits pushed the share of tax revenue as a percentage of GDP to 23.4 per cent between 2000/01 and 2004/05. The ratio peaked at 26.4 per cent in 2007/08, largely as a result of sustained commodity prices and profitability. As a consequence of the recession and the related decline in revenues, tax as a share of GDP fell to 23.5 per cent in 2009/10. Since then, tax revenue performance has remained buoyant, consistently sustaining a share of GDP above 24 per cent.

income tax figure 4.1

Evolution of tax policy

Tax policy reforms aim to raise revenue in a manner that is fair and efficient, while maintaining social solidarity and supporting long-term economic growth and job creation. An equitable and progressive tax system imposes a similar tax burden on individuals at similar income levels, with a higher proportion of tax paid by those who have higher incomes. An efficient tax system will not unduly influence the economic decisions of taxpayers or make compliance overly burdensome.

The three main sources of tax revenue are personal income tax, corporate income tax and VAT. Tax policy reforms since 1994 have broadened the tax base, increasing the portion of total income that is taxable. Government introduced capital gains tax and broadened the inclusion of fringe-benefits “in kind” as part of taxable income. Alongside this broadening of the tax base, government has consistently provided tax relief to individuals, offsetting the impact of inflation (i.e. fiscal drag).

Efficiency improvements at the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and expansion of the pay-as-you-earn system (where employers pay tax on behalf of employees) have also enhanced the ability of the state to collect revenues, allowing for net tax relief in previous budgets.

The headline corporate income tax rate was reduced from 40 per cent in 1994 down to 28 per cent in 2008. Yet corporate income tax increased substantially as a share of taxable income until the recession of 2009, supported by strong corporate profitability and high commodity prices. This trend reversed with the onset of the global financial crisis, with negative nominal growth rates of -18 per cent and -1 per cent in 2009/10 and 2010/11 respectively. Corporate income tax revenues have recovered but remained volatile in response to shifting commodity prices and labour unrest, with nominal growth rates fluctuating between 5 per cent and 14 per cent between 2011/12 and 2013/14. In general, revenues from this instrument are more volatile than VAT and personal income tax.

Government has provided significant tax relief and incentives to business, including depreciation allowances that seek to support investment. Tax expenditures, or revenue foregone, to support social or industrial policy objectives is estimated at R120 billion, or 15 per cent of gross tax revenue. A tax expenditure statement appears in Annexure C.

The VAT rate has remained unchanged at 14percent. While South Africa’s corporate and personal income tax rates are comparable to many Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, its VAT rate remains comparatively low. Since VAT is directed at consumption, it is regarded as more efficient than other taxes, with a less damaging impact on long-term economic growth. Other indirect taxes, such as fuel taxes, were increased more or less in line with inflation.

Figure 4.2 shows the combined effect of broadening the personal income tax base and reducing the marginal personal income tax rates.

income tax figure 4.2

Between 1998 and 2002, the top personal income tax rate was decreased from 45 per cent to 40 per cent. Between 2005 and 2014, the tax-free threshold (below which individuals do not pay personal income tax) for taxpayers below 65 years old increased by an average of 8.1 per cent per year, from R35 000 to R70 700. The net result is that the effective personal income tax rate has remained below its 1999/2000 peak of 20.6 per cent.

The need for additional revenues to close the structural deficit requires increases in some tax rates. There is little room, however, to broaden the tax base since this approach has largely been exhausted.

Davis Tax Committee recommendations

The Davis Tax Committee, established in 2013, is advising government on future refinements to the tax system. The committee has noted that compared with rates in other countries, there appears to be some scope to increase taxes on capital income, marginal personal income tax rates and indirect taxes such as fuel levies and VAT. The committee’s interim report on small and medium-sized enterprises was released for comment in 2014, and its recommendations on changes to the turnover tax regime for micro businesses are included in these tax proposals. The committee has also published a report on base erosion and profit shifting.

The National Treasury expects reports on the overall tax system, VAT, estate duty, wealth and mining taxes, to be published soon. These reports will inform policy considerations in the 2016 Budget.

Tax proposals

The 2015 Budget tax proposals aim to increase tax revenues, limit the erosion of the corporate tax base, increase incentives for small businesses and promote a greener economy. The main tax proposals include:

  • Increasing marginal personal income tax rates by one percentage point for all taxpayers earning more than R181900, and adjusting tax brackets and rebates to account for fiscal drag
  • Raising the general fuel levy by 30.5 c/litre and the Road Accident Fund (RAF) levy on fuel by 50 c/litre (a total increase of 80.5 c/litre)
  • Taking further steps to combat base erosion and profit shifting
  • Providing for a more generous turnover tax regime for small businesses
  • Increasing excise duties on alcohol and tobacco products
  • Reviewing the diesel refund scheme
  • Strengthening the energy-efficiency savings incentive
  • Raising the electricity levy
  • Changing transfer duty rates and brackets

The main tax proposals are set out below. Proposals of a more technical nature are presented in Annexure C. In addition to these proposals, a draft carbon tax bill is expected to be published for public comment during 2015.

Personal income tax

To raise additional tax revenues while enhancing the progressive character of the tax system, government proposes to increase the marginal personal income tax rates by one percentage point for all income tax brackets except the lowest, which will remain at 18 per cent.

This also requires a one percentage point increase in the tax rate for trusts. 
To provide relief for inflation-related earnings increases (fiscal drag), all income tax brackets and rebates will be increased by 4.2 per cent. The tax- free threshold for individual taxpayers below 65 years will increase from R70700 to R73650. Table 4.4 illustrates the proposed changes for 2015/16.

income tax table 4.4

Medical tax credits

Monthly medical scheme contribution tax credits will, from 1 March 2015, be increased from R257 to R270 per month for the first two beneficiaries and from R172 to R181 per month for each additional beneficiary.

income tax table 4.5

Turnover tax regime for micro businesses

The turnover tax regime was introduced to limit the compliance burden on micro businesses with annual turnover of up to R1 million. These rules eliminate the need for a great deal of paperwork and compliance expenses. The Davis Tax Committee recommended that this incentive be made more generous to improve the participation of small businesses in the economy and the tax system. Government proposes to adjust the rates and thresholds to make the turnover tax more attractive, as shown in Table 4.6.

income tax table 4.5 income tax table 4.6

Base erosion and profit shifting

Many countries face the problem of businesses exploiting gaps in international tax rules to artificially shift profits and avoid paying tax. These avoidance measures, practiced widely by multinational firms, substantially reduce their contributions to national tax bases. In recent years, government has taken measures to limit artificial reductions of taxable income through cross-border interest payments.

Building on these steps, government will propose amendments to improve transfer-pricing documentation and reporting, and change the rules for controlled foreign companies and the digital economy. These proposals are in line with matters examined in a recent OECD report, “Addressing Base Erosion and Profit Shifting”, which examined the practice. A December 2014 report by the Davis Tax Committee on the same subject highlighted these concerns in the South African context. Tax returns will place a greater focus on indicators of potential base erosion and profit shifting.

Excise duties on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products

Since 2002, tax rates on alcoholic beverages have consistently increased above inflation. The amendments for 2015/16 continue this trend, with excise duty rate increases of between 4.8 and 8.5 per cent. The excise duties on tobacco products increased between 5 and 7 per cent.

An additional excise duty category is proposed for grain-based fermented beverages (flavoured alcoholic beverages using 100 per cent unconverted grains). The rate for these beverages will initially be linked to the excise duty for beer, and may be reviewed to ensure a level playing field with fruit-fermented beverages.

income tax table 4.7

Other reforms under consideration include providing excise duty relief to wine-based spirits (e.g. brandy). The rationale is that brandy is at a cost disadvantage compared with other forms of alcoholic spirits, because it takes 4-5 litres of wine to produce a litre of brandy. Sparkling wine accounts for a very small proportion of alcoholic beverage sales and the nature of this market results in large price discrepancies. This may require a review of the way the excise duty on sparkling wine is calculated.

Government proposes a change in the way the targeted tax burden on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products is expressed. VAT will be removed from the calculation and, as a result, the excise tax burden for wine, beer and spirits will henceforth be 11, 23 and 36 per cent, excluding VAT and rounded to the nearest whole number. For tobacco products the rate will be 40 per cent. These proposals are detailed in Annexure C.

Transfer duties

Average house prices have recovered slowly over the past two years following a post-2009 decline. The rates and brackets for transfer duties on the sale of property on or after 1 March 2015 will be adjusted to provide relief to middle-income households. The new rates will eliminate transfer duty on all property acquired below R750 000, decrease effective transfer- duty liability for properties acquired up to about R2.3 million and increase liability for properties above this amount.

Income tax table 4.8

Fuel taxes

The steep decline in world oil prices over the past year has resulted in decreases in the local fuel price. Fuel levies are imposed at fixed cent/litre rates on petrol, diesel and biodiesel. The levies aim to raise revenue, reduce pollution and compensate for road accidents.

Government proposes to increase the general fuel levy by 30.5 c/litre. At the same time, the RAF levy, used to finance third-party motor vehicle personal accident claims, will be increased by 50 c/litre to support the RAF. It is proposed that these increases become effective on 1 April 2015.

The estimated overall fuel tax burden after this proposed increase will be about 41 per cent, which is comparable with the level in many other developed and some developing countries.

Income tax table 4.9

Diesel refunds

The diesel refund system allows for a refund of all or part of the fuel levies to producers in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining sectors. The administrative system in place since 2000 faces significant technical problems and legal challenges. Some eligible firms are unable to benefit from the system, while others appear to be making disproportionate refund claims. To address these concerns, government proposes to delink diesel refunds from the VAT system from 1 April 2016. The National Treasury and SARS will explore alternative, more equitable rules and administrative procedures after consultation with the affected industries.

Government also proposes to reduce diesel fuel levy refunds to 20 per cent and 50 per cent of the general fuel levy respectively for land mining activities and generation of electricity by Eskom’s open-cycle gas turbines. The current full exemption provides a perverse incentive to use diesel excessively. This change will become effective from 1 April 2016. In the interim, government proposes several technical amendments to this system. These are discussed in Annexure C.

Electricity levies

Given electricity supply constraints, additional measures are needed to manage demand. Government is considering an increase in the electricity levy from 3.5c/kWh to 5.5c/kWh. The additional revenue will be used to fund the broadening of the scope of the energy-efficiency savings tax incentive to include co-generation and an increase in the amount available for this incentive. Also under consideration is enhancing the accelerated depreciation for solar photovoltaic renewable energy. In the absence of a carbon tax, the electricity levy promotes energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The 2c/kWh increase is a temporary measure to be withdrawn when the carbon tax is introduced in 2016.

Government is examining loopholes that unduly favour intensive electricity users, and will consider a levy that would apply to users and exporters of electricity who consume in excess of 800 000 MWh per year. To prevent the possibility of double taxation, a credit of 5.5c/kWh could be provided for users if the price they pay is above 37 c/kWh. Before any measures are proposed, government will consult with industry, the electricity regulator, Eskom and other interested parties.

Energy-efficiency savings tax incentive

The energy-efficiency savings tax incentive will be increased from 45 c/kWh to 95 c/kWh and extended to cogeneration projects. This incentive was introduced in November 2013 to complement the proposed carbon tax. It encourages firms to support a greener economy. Businesses can claim deductions based on energy saved. In future, this allowance will be funded through a recycling of revenues from the carbon tax.

Revenue impact of tax proposals

income tax last To view the full pdf – click here.

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