Effective January 1, 2022, disposable plastic bags provided at point of sale to consumers at grocery stores, convenience stores and drugstores in Fairfax County are subject to a five-cent tax. To avoid the tax, consumers may use reusable shopping bags. Paper bags are not subject to the five-cent tax, although certain retailers may have their own fees for paper bags.
The purpose of the tax is to curb our collective use of disposable plastic bags, to reduce the amount of plastic waste in our local waterways, roadways, and open spaces and the damage it causes. Plastic pollution is a serious problem for ecological and health reasons. Plastics do not biodegrade like wood or other natural materials. Instead, plastic materials photodegrade, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces but never fully disappearing. Pieces of plastic both large and very, very small can wreak havoc on our natural resources and can find their way into our food and water.
Several neighboring jurisdictions have also enacted a disposable plastic bag tax. Arlington County and the City of Alexandria have a bag tax effective January 1, 2022, while the City of Falls Church’s tax will take effect April 1, 2022. To learn more about the plastic bag tax in our region, please visit the NOVA Plastic Solution regional website.
Revenue from this tax will be collected by the Virginia Department of Taxation and will be disbursed to each locality monthly. Fairfax County’s plastic bag tax ordinance tracks both enabling legislation passed in the 2020 session of the Virginia General Assembly , as well as adopted by the state Tax Commissioner, which were finalized on September 1, 2021. The legislation requires that the plastic bag tax be collected by the retailer at time of purchase, with revenue to be allocated toward:
- Environmental cleanup programs
- Pollution and litter mitigation programs
- Educational programs on environmental waste reduction
- Provision of reusable bags to recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) benefits
The tax is being administered and enforced by the state Department of Taxation in the same manner as the Retail Sales and Use Tax. For questions about administration or enforcement, please contact Virginia Tax at (804) 367-8031.
INFORMATION FOR RETAILERS
Effective January 1, 2022, disposable plastic bags provided to consumers in grocery stores, convenience stores and drug stores in Fairfax County are subject to a five-cent tax. The tax is to be collected at point of sale and applies to bags provided free of charge or if the store charges the customer for the bags.
The tax is being collected, administered, and enforced by the state Department of Taxation in the same manner as the Retail Sales and Use Tax. For questions about administration and enforcement, please consult the official guidelines and Tax Bulletin 11-9 at Virginia Tax. Retailers may also call the Virginia Tax Business Customer Service line at (804)367-8037.
Affected retailers will be able to retain a two-cent discount in the first year of implementation. Starting January 1, 2023, this discount will decrease to one cent.
Retailers across the region will be affected by the disposable plastic bag tax. Arlington County and the City of Alexandria have enacted a bag tax, effective January 1, 2022, while the City of Falls Church’s tax will go into effect on April 1, 2022. To spread awareness about the tax at point of sale, retailers across the region may download and use the following flyers or point of sale stickers.