The Environmental Levy Plastic Bag Regulations 2001 (S.I. No. 605 of 2001) came into effect on 04th March 2002 and amended by the Environmental Levy Plastic Bag Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 167 of 2007)
The plastic bag levy was first introduced on 4th March 2002 at the rate of 15 cent per bag and amended to 22 cents in July 2007.
The primary purpose of the Regulations is to reduce the consumption of disposable plastic bags by influencing consumer behaviour. All levies are remitted into the Environment Fund
The levy on plastic shopping bags has a strong anti-litter emphasis. The Regulations do not distinguish between biodegradable plastic bags and other plastic bags. Biodegradable bags still take a considerable time to degrade.
While their use may be preferable in a final treatment situation, such bags will continue to form a visible nuisance where discarded as litter.
What is the Current Levy?
The current levy of 22 cent was introduced on 1st July, 2007
Who pays the levy?
Customers who want a plastic shopping bag must pay the levy. To avoid paying the levy, simply use re-usable bags.
What constitutes a plastic bag within the Regulations?
A ‘plastic bag’ is defined in section 9(1)(a) of the Waste Management (Amendment) Act 2001 as a bag “made wholly or in part of plastic”. This includes any bag with a plastic laminate in either a gloss or a matt finish. Furthermore, the levy applies to bags with plastic handles. It is the responsibility of the retailer to ensure that he or she obtains the full specifications of bags from suppliers, with regard to all the bag’s constituent materials, before deciding to purchase or acquire them.
Are all plastic bags liable to the levy?
Yes – except where otherwise stated in the Regulations.
Broadly the exclusions cover shopping bags designed for re-use which are sold for 70 cents or more, and
- bags that do not exceed 225mm in width (exclusive of any gussets), by 345mm in depth (inclusive of any gussets), by 450mm in length, (inclusive of any handles)
- small bags used to contain fresh meat, fish or poultry, even if they already have packaging.
- small bags used to contain loose fruit, nuts, sweets, vegetables, hot or cold cooked food, provided these items are not already packaged.
If other products are placed in these bags, then the retailer must charge the levy to the customer.
Bags given out in duty – free areas are also exempt.
It is the responsibility of the retailer to ensure that he or she obtains the full specifications of bags from suppliers, with regard to the dimensions of all bags for the conveyance of foodstuffs if exemptions are to apply, before deciding to purchase or acquire them. Plastic bags used to contain goods or products sold on board an aircraft or ship, and in an area of a port or airport to which intending passengers are denied access unless in possession of a valid ticket or boarding card, are also excluded from the levy.
Are there Levy Free Bags?
The Department does not endorse any bags as being "levy free".
Bags not exceeding 225mm in width (exclusive of any gussets), by 345mm in depth (inclusive of any gussets), by 450mm in length, (inclusive of any handles) have been marketed as “Levy Free Bags”. The regulations, however, do not provide for “Levy Free Bags”. The Plastic Bag Levy applies on all plastic bags, even if marketed as “Levy Free Bags”, when used in circumstances not exempted by the regulations.
What are the Alternatives to Disposable Plastic Bags?
Alternatives to disposable plastic shopping bags, such as reusable bags are now available in shops. The consumer has changed to using these alternatives. In the grocery sector, disposable plastic bags have largely been replaced by reusable shopping bags. Some stores provide paper bags for retail items.
Plastic shopping bags designed for re-use are exempt from the levy provided the retailer charges at least 70 cent for the bag
What happens to the money collected?
The levy is paid to the revenue commissioners who are responsible for collecting the levy.
The money collected goes into the environment fund and used to fund litter, waste management and other environmental projects.
What must the public do?
In order for this levy to work, members of the public should report any incidents where plastic bags are distributed free of charge to:
Customer Services Desk,
Tipperary County Council,
Civic Offices, Nenagh or Civic Offices Emmet Street Clonmel,
How will a customer know that the levy has been imposed on plastic bags supplied to him/her?
The retailer is obliged to pass on the levy to the customer and the levy has to be itemised on any invoice, receipt or docket issued to the customer.
FAQ’s for RETAILERS
Is there to be a return form for retailers?
Yes. Revenue issue a return form to each retailer identified by revenue as likely to have a liability.
If a retailer receives a return form from revenue but has no liability to the levy, what should he/she do?
The retailer should make a “nil” return to revenue using the return form. If the retailer never supplies plastic bags to customers he/she should advise revenue accordingly so that the need to complete future returns can be avoided.
When is the return and payment due?
The return and payment will be due on the 19th day of the month following the end of an accounting period. The first accounting period began on the fourth day of March 2002 and ended on the last day of June 2002. Thereafter each accounting period is a period of three months beginning on the first day of July, October, January or April i.e. Calendar quarter.
How is the levy paid?
The retailer sends the completed return form declaring the amount due to revenue. On the return, the retailer indicates his/her bank account from which the levy is to be deducted.
What if the retailer changes his/her bank account?
The retailer should indicate the revised bank account details on the next relevant return.
Can the retailer pay by cheque or cash?
The method of payment (electronic debiting of retailer’s bank account) is specifically provided for in the legislation in relation to the levy. This method of payment is cheaper and more efficient than paying by cheque. Government and banking policy is to move towards electronic banking and away from cheque payments.
Can the return for the levy be made through the revenue on-line system?
Yes. See link to Revenue below.
What happens if a return is not made?
Revenue can estimate the amount of levy payable for the period if no return is received. Notice of the amount estimated is then served on the retailer and this amount can then serve as the basis for enforcement action. This approach is the same as that currently applied in relation to tax liabilities (e.g. Vat).
What happens if the levy is underpaid?
If revenue have reason to believe that the levy is underpaid they can estimate the total amount of levy that in their opinion should have been paid for any accounting period or periods. Notice of the amount estimated is then served on the retailer and this amount can then serve as the basis for enforcement action. Again, this approach is the same as that currently applied in relation to tax liabilities.
Can these estimates be appealed?
Yes. Provision exists for appealing the estimates to the appeal commissioners.
What happens if the levy is not paid?
Revenue will ensure that early and effective action is taken against those who have a liability to the levy and fail to pay. A late payment interest charge similar to the charge that applies in respect of income tax, vat, corporation tax etc also applies. The usual methods of recovery for the levy will be the same as for taxes, viz. Sheriff enforcement, civil proceedings for recovery through the courts and attachment of third parties. Other enforcement methods will be used if necessary.
What records have to be kept by retailers?
Details of the records required to be kept are set out in the Regulations in relation to the levy. The record keeping requirement has been framed to minimise the compliance burden on the legitimate trader while at the same time ensuring that levy evasion can be combated. The basic requirements are an opening stock take of plastic bags when the levy is introduced, a record of plastic bag purchases and a record of plastic bags supplied to customers where the levy applies.
The records must differentiate between
a. those plastic bags not exceeding 225mm in width (exclusive of any gussets), by 345mm in depth (inclusive of any gussets), by 450mm in length, (inclusive of any handles).used to contain fresh meat, fish, poultry, fruit, vegetables and other foods that are not otherwise packed, ice,
b. other plastic shopping bags.
Records are not required to be kept, however, of re-usable shopping bags which are sold for 70 cents or more.
How is the levy enforced?
Local authorities are central to the enforcement of the levy on the ground. The following actions are undertaken by local authorities in ensuring compliance by retailers with the requirements of the levy Regulations:
- Visiting retail outlets and talking to retailers
- Carrying out initial spot checks
- Monitoring implementation
- Ensuring that the levy is passed on in full to customers
- Ensuring that exemptions are not being abused
- Checking tills to confirm that customers are being charged the 22 cent levy for plastic bags where applicable
- Taking appropriate action where it has been established that the levy has not been charged to customers – e.g. Issuing letter informing retailer of obligations under the Regulations and follow up where necessary
- ollowing up on any complaints from the public
ROLE of LOCAL AUTHORITY
Enforcement powers available to local authorities under section 14 of the Waste Management Act, 1996 sets out the powers of authorised persons under the Act.
- Section 14 (1) states that an “authorised person may at all reasonable times enter any premises and bring thereon such other persons (including members of the garda síochána) or equipment as he or she may consider necessary for the purpose”.
- Section 14(3) requires that an authorised person is furnished with a certificate of appointment for the purposes of the act and shall produce that certificate if requested.
- Section 14(4) allows the authorised person to, inter alia, carry out inspections, require the provision of information and require the provision of records and documents as may be necessary for the exercise of power under the Act.
- Section 14(6) makes it an offence to impede or mislead an authorised officer in the performance of his or her functions under the section.
Section 72 of the Waste Management Act, 1996 (as inserted by section 9 of the Waste Management (Amendment Act), 2001) provides the basic power to make Regulations to impose the plastic bag levy. In accordance with subsection (9) of that section, it is an offence for any person to fail to comply with a provision of those Regulations.
In turn, in accordance with section 10 of the Waste Management Act 1996, (as amended by section 22 of the Protection of the Environment Act 2003 ) a person guilty of an offence under the Act is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €3,000 or to imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both or, on conviction on indictment, to a maximum fine of €15 million, or to imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both.
The Act also provides for a system of daily fines where an offence continues to be committed after conviction i.e. Up to €1,000 per day for a summary conviction, or up to €130,000 for conviction on indictment.
Section 11 of the Act gives local authorities powers to take summary proceedings.
ROLE of REVENUE
The role of the Revenue Commissioners relates to the collection of the levy. A service level agreement between the revenue commissioners and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government provides that Revenue has responsibility in relation to collection and for ensuring that business is aware of their obligation in relation to making returns.
Revenue is responsible for:
- Identification of accountable persons.
- Processing returns and payments received from accountable persons.
- Carrying out verification checks relating to the accuracy of returns.
- Pursuing accountable persons who fail to deliver returns and payments within the statutory time limits.
- Raising estimates where returns are not received or where liability is under stated.
- Dealing with appeals against estimates raised.
To minimise compliance costs on retailers, checks carried out by Revenue will, insofar as possible, be incorporated with checks carried out in relation to tax liabilities
The Waste Management (Amendment) Act, 2001 provides for the establishment of an environment fund, to be managed and controlled by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Revenues from the levies on plastic shopping bags and the landfill of waste are paid into the fund, which may be utilised, for a range of purposes. These include assistance in the following areas:
- Schemes to prevent/reduce waste
- Waste recovery activities
- Research & development into waste management
- Production, distribution or sale of products deemed to be less harmful to the environment than other similar products
- Development of producer initiatives to prevent/reduce waste arising from their activities
- Implementation of waste management plans
- Enforcement of the provisions of any enactment relating to waste management, prevention of litter or protection of the environment
- Partnership projects, that involve local authorities, to improve the quality of the environment for particular local communities
- Promotion of awareness of the need to protect the environment, including national and regional campaigns
- Promotion /support of education and training to assist achievement of campaign objectives
- Resources (human or material) to enable education and training to be carried out
- Initiatives undertaken by community groups and others for protection of the environment
- Such other purposes for protection of the environment as may be prescribed by the minister in regulations.
Any queries in relation to the regulations should be addressed to;
Customer Services Desk,
Tipperary County Council,
Civic Offices, Nenagh or Civic Offices Emmet Street Clonmel,