Plastic bag tax goes into effect in Northern Virginia

Shoppers in three Virginia locations will see a new tax on their receipts if they use plastic shopping bags or other goods now that a new tax has taken effect.

A five-cent tax on plastic bags went into effect in Arlington County, Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria on January 1. Retailers are required to apply the tax, which will be paid by buyers. Localities approved the new taxes in September to mirror similar taxes around Washington, DC and Montgomery County in Maryland.

The tax applies to single-use plastic bags, which are commonly used in grocery stores, convenience stores and pharmacies. There will be an exception for plastic bags designed to be reused, bags used to package items like meat and fish, bags used for dry cleaning and prescription drugs, and bags sold in packages, like garbage bags.

Local officials cited environmental concerns, such as waste, as the reason for imposing the new tax. Many business groups have opposed the tax, warning that it could negatively impact low-income shoppers and could lead some Virginians near local borders to shop in tax-free locations, which would have a negative impact on some businesses.

Localities will use the revenue from the new tax to try to alleviate some of the concerns of business groups. Arlington, for example, will award businesses two cents on five cents collected in the first year of the tax and one cent on five cents in subsequent years. The locality also distributed reusable bags to at-risk communities. Alexandria also distributes reusable bags to low-income residents.

Stephen Haner, senior fellow in national and local tax policy at the Thomas Jefferson Free Market Institute, told The Center Square that he doubts the policy will be effective in reducing waste.

“It will enrich the government, annoy merchants and annoy their customers,” Haner said. “You won’t see any [noticeable] waste reduction. »

Arlington County also approved a new law that places 10 speed cameras in the locality. If the camera catches a speeding driver, he will be subject to a $50 fine.

Bryce K. Locke