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Budget 2021: Some Sunlight Beyond the Clouds

By André Wentzel, 25 February 2021

Despite the sombre economic climate, Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, adopted an optimistic outlook, thanking all South Africans and calling on the country to continue its ‘superhuman efforts’ to be ‘other than human’ and collectively create a glorious future.

Quoting Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, he emphasised that hope is found in darkness, with light just beyond the clouds. For South Africans, now is the time to be hopeful, while also adopting a ‘zero-based budgeting’ approach that takes tax relief into account, along with increased excise duties and fuel levies.

André Wentzel, Solutions Manager for Sanlam Retail Affluent: Recurring Savings, says that the granting of above-inflation personal tax relief of R2.2 billion is particularly positive. “Many were expecting the worst when it came to tax increases, given that we currently have the largest tax shortfall on record. We applaud the government’s considered approach, which should help to reduce the tax burden on lower and middle-income households. If you are earning above the new tax-free threshold of R87 300, this means you’ll have at least R756 more in your pocket during the next tax year.”

Wentzel says that the tax relief gives South Africans a chance to take a deep breath and reprioritise their finances. “Minister Mboweni stressed that the biggest contribution the government can make to support economic recovery is getting its fiscal house in order. This can be extended to all of us. Now is the time to re-examine money matters to feel in control and cut expenditure where possible.”

Here are four further take-outs from the speech for South Africans, according to Wentzel:

  • Balancing short and long-term needs: Another extremely positive aspect of the speech was the provision of over R10 billion for the purchase and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines over the next two years. The minister shared the difficulties of accommodating short-term needs like vaccine funding with taking action to ensure the sustainability of our public finances. This is a ‘dance’ we should all consider.

    While it’s imperative to be flexible to accommodate changes in circumstance, it’s also critical to keep sight of long-term goals, such as saving for retirement or a child’s education. COVID-19 has also shown how important an emergency fund is.
  • Saving for retirement: Mboweni also confirmed changes concerning provident funds and announced proposed amendments to Regulation 28 – part of the Pension Funds Act governing the types of investments retirement savers can save in – to encourage investment in infrastructure. This may hold potential investment opportunities for those saving for retirement.
  • Awareness of sin tax and fuel levies: Disposable income gains from the personal tax relief may be jeopardised by significant spending on sin-tax items and fuel levies. Be aware of the 8% increase in specific excise duties on tobacco and alcohol. A 340 ml can of beer will cost 14c more, a 750 ml bottle of wine 26c more, a 750 ml bottle of sparkling wine 86c more and a 750 ml bottle of spirits R5.50 more.
  • The power of a plan: The Minister repeatedly emphasised that this is ‘not an austerity budget’. The message was clear – we need to invest now to achieve growth down the line. Similarly, it’s important to create a road map for one’s personal finances based on long-term goals. It’s about budgeting properly to secure your financial future. It will be a long road, and you may have to make sacrifices along the way, so celebrate each small ‘win’ that takes you closer to achieving your goals. Live with confidence, have a clear picture of what you want the future to look like and take deliberate steps towards this.

Wentzel concludes, “To quote the Minister’s iconic words, ‘Continuing on our path was a difficult decision. But if you want an easy decision, go swimming.’ Right now, we urge South Africans to stick to their savings and investing goals when possible. In these tough times, now’s the moment to be hopeful, take stock, and reprioritise your finances.”

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