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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a plastic bag?

2. What is the plastic bag levy?

3. Is the levy to be charged on all types of plastic bags?

4. What if a supplier offers a retailer "Levy Free bags"?

5. How will a customer know that the levy has been imposed on plastic bags supplied to them?

6. Who does the retailer pay the levy to?

7. Is there to be a return form for Retailers?

8. If a retailer receives a return form from Revenue but has no liability to the levy, what should they do?

9. When is the return and payment due?

10. How is the levy paid?

11. What if the retailer changes his/her bank account?

12. Can the retailer pay by cheque or cash?

13. Can the return for the levy be made through the Revenue On-line System?

14. What happens if a return is not made?

15. What happens if the levy is underpaid?


18. What records have to be kept by retailers?

19. How is the levy enforced?

 

What is a plastic bag?
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.


What is the plastic bag levy?
It is an environmental levy on plastic shopping bags. The levy is charged at 22 cent per bag. It is imposed at point of sale on the supply by retailers of plastic shopping bags to customers  .As the primary purpose of the plastic bag levy is to prevent littering, the levy also applies to bio-degradable plastic bags.


Is the levy to be charged on all types of plastic bags?
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 used to contain:

  • fresh meat, fish or poultry (whether packaged or otherwise)
  • loose fruit and vegetables, nuts, confectionary, dairy products and hot or cold cooked food  that are not otherwise packaged and ice 

Provided they 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). If other products are placed in these bags, then the retailer must charge the levy to the customer.

It is the responsibility of the retailer to ensure they obtain 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.  

What if a supplier offers a retailer "Levy Free bags"?
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.

How will a customer know that the levy has been imposed on plastic bags supplied to them?
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.
 
Who does the retailer pay the levy to?
The levy is paid to the Revenue Commissioners who are responsible for collecting the levy.
 
Is there to be a return form for Retailers?
Yes. Revenue issues 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 they 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. Revenue On-line System Revenue website  

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 has 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.
 
 
What happens if the levy is not paid?
In fairness to those persons who meet their obligations, 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.

Can these estimates be appealed?
Yes. Provision exists for appealing the estimates to the Appeal Commissioners.

 

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, and
(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
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
  • following up on any complaints from the public

Revenue Commissioners
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 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.

Enforcement Powers available to local authorities under the Waste Management Act, 1996
Section 14 of the Waste Management Act, 1996 sets out the powers of authorised persons under the Act.

Section 11 of the Act gives local authorities powers to take summary proceedings.
 
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 is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding. 3,000 euro or to imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both or, on conviction on indictment, to a maximum fine of 15 million euro, 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 euro per day for a summary conviction, or up to 130,000 euro for conviction on indictment.