Plastic Bag Tax
Frequently Asked Questions 

Local governments in Northern Virginia are working together through the Northern Virginia Waste Management Board to reduce plastic pollution in the region. The City of Alexandria, Arlington County, Fairfax County, and City of Falls Church have passed ordinances requiring grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores to collect a five-cent tax on every disposable plastic bag used by a customer at the point of sale. This tax applies to bags used at staffed checkout registers, self-checkout, and for delivery of food or other items purchased online.

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the disposable plastic bag tax. If you have additional questions or concerns, please visit the website of the municipality most relevant to you for more information.
 

Plastic Bag Tax Effective January 1, 2022

Plastic Bag Tax Effective April 1, 2022

Plastic Bag Tax Effective January 1, 2023

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of bags are subject to this tax?
Disposable plastic bags provided to shoppers in grocery stores, convenience stores, or pharmacies. The tax applies whether the bags are provided to the customer free of charge, or if the store charges the customer for the bags.

 

What types of bags are not subject to this tax?

  • Durable plastic bags, with handles, that are designed to be used multiple times and are at least 4 mils thick

  • Plastic bags solely used to wrap, contain or package the following types of goods in order to prevent damage or contamination:

    • Ice cream

    • Meat

    • Fish

    • Poultry

    • Produce

    • Unwrapped bulk food items

    • Perishable food items

    • Dry cleaning

    • Prescription drugs

    • Multiple bags sold in containers for use as garbage, pet waste, or leaf removal bags
       

How will the tax be administered?

The tax will be collected, administered, and enforced by the Virginia Tax Commissioner, in the same manner that the Retail Sales and Use Tax is administered. Following deductions from the retailer discount, and direct costs incurred by the Virginia Department of Taxation, remaining revenue will be distributed to the individual municipalities at the end of each month.

Businesses with questions about exemptions, or whether or not they need to register and collect the tax, may call the Customer Service section at the Virginia Department of Taxation at 804-367-8037. Email to the department can be securely sent from www.tax.virginia.gov/contact-us. For state guidelines, please visit www.tax.virginia.gov/disposable-plastic-bag-tax.

Where will the tax be charged?

According to the authorizing state code, regulated entities are “Grocery Stores, Convenience Stores, and Drugstores.” The state’s guidelines on definitions of these retailers are as follows:
 

  • “Grocery store” means an establishment that has an enclosed room in a permanent structure and that sells food and other items intended for human consumption, including a variety of ingredients commonly used in the preparation of meals. This definition does not include food banks, farmers markets, or mobile food units.

  • “Drugstore” means an establishment that sells medicines prepared by a licensed pharmacist pursuant to a prescription and other medicines and items for home and general use.

  • “Convenience store” means an establishment that (i) has an enclosed room in a permanent structure where stock is displayed and offered for sale and (ii) maintains an inventory of edible items intended for human consumption consisting of a variety of such items of the types normally sold in grocery stores. 

  • Larger retailers that contain a grocery store, a convenience store, or a drug store are subject to the tax. Such retailers shall collect the tax on all taxable plastic bags provided, regardless of the items sold. However, no store will be considered a convenience store solely because it offers a limited selection of snacks and beverages for sale at the point of sale. In order to be subject to the tax in a locality, a grocery store, convenience store, or drug store must maintain regular business hours at a fixed place of business in the locality.


How will the revenue from this tax be used?

Revenue from the disposable plastic bag tax will be used by each municipality for the following purposes:

  • 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
     

As a business owner or manager, what resources are available to me to help inform customers about this tax?

Area governments with plastic bag tax ordinances are working together to provide the business community with information and resources to support the implementation of the tax. Linked below are two downloadable items you can use to share information with customers. Share information about the plastic bag tax with customers in both English and Spanish by printing and displaying these regional resources.


Resources for businesses with a tax effective date of January 1, 2022