The 2004/2005 budget, announced by Finance Minister Trevor Manuel in parliament on Wednesday, puts money back into the pockets of consumers, but motorists will pay higher fuel levies from April 7.

The 2004/2005 budget, announced by Finance Minister Trevor Manuel in parliament on Wednesday, puts money back into the pockets of consumers, but motorists will pay higher fuel levies from April 7.

While last year's individual tax relief of R13,3-billion could not be matched in 2004, taxpayers would still save R4-billion in 2004/05 to compensate for the effects of inflation, Manuel said.

Lower to middle-income earners would be the main beneficiaries of four billion rand in personal income tax relief, of which 60 per cent will go to workers earning less than R150 000 a year.

In response to the budget announcement, Naamsa president Ian Robertson said that the budget proposals represented a balanced approach to the many challenges facing the country and were consistent with the goal of placing the South African economy on a higher growth path.

br>With specific reference to the automotive industry, Robertson noted the Minister's intention to review fringe benefit taxation of motor vehicle allowances as well as the advalorem excise duty structure during the 2004/2005 fiscal year.

However, the general fuel levy on petrol and diesel would be raised by ten cents a litre to R1,11 and R0,95 respectively from April 7. In addition, the Road Accident Fund levy was increased by five cents.

To compensate for the fuel levy increases though, the diesel fuel rebate was increased by 15 cents a litre to provide relief to the agricultural, forestry, and mining sectors.