Carrier bag levy

Northern Ireland retailers must charge at least 5p for new carrier bags. The main aim is to protect the environment by greatly cutting the number of carrier bags used. Reusing carrier bags saves natural resources and reduces the need for landfill.

Retailer registration login

When does the levy apply?

The levy applies to all new carrier bags with a retail price below 20p. This is regardless of whether they are single use or reusable.

The levy applies to carrier bags of all materials - it's not just plastic bags.

The levy applies to carrier bags when:

  • you buy goods like groceries or clothing
  • goods need to be delivered, for example, items bought from the internet which are sent from premises in Northern Ireland and delivered in carrier bags

Retailers set the price of their bags which means that prices may vary. However, only the proceeds of the 5p levy are paid to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Carrier bag levy calculator

If you’re unsure if it applies, use this calculator to see if you need to charge the levy:

When does the levy not apply?

The levy does not apply when the bags:

  • contain take-away hot food and hot drinks
  • only contain items such as unpackaged food, seeds and bulbs, axes, knives or razor blades, goods contaminated by soil and some medicinal products
  • carry goods bought in an airport after you clear security
  • are used when you buy a service, such as shoe repair or laundry
  • are of certain sizes and used only to contain packaged uncooked meat or fish
  • are certain types of small bags
  • are specialist bags, such as mail order and courier bags
  • are supplied for free to replace worn out ‘bags for life’
  • are carrier bags with a retail price of 20p or more

Where does the money go?

The money raised is used to deliver local projects to improve the environment. In its first year (2013/14), £3.4m of the proceeds were spent on more than 250 projects delivered by the Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL) Challenge Fund, Natural Heritage grants, Sustainability Innovation Fund and Local Clean-Up Support projects.

Retailers’ responsibilities

When it applies, retailers must:

  • charge customers the 5p levy for each new carrier bag given out with a retail price of less than 20p
  • pay the net proceeds of the levy to DAERA

To contact the DAERA carrier bag levy team:

Payments

Each quarter retailers are required to:

  • declare the number of carrier bags they have given out for which they only charged the 5p levy
  • declare the number of carrier bags they have given out for which they charged both the 5p levy and their own retail price of less than 20p
  • make the associated payment to DAERA within 28 days of the end of the quarter
  Period owing Payment due
Quarter 1 April, May and June 1 July - 28 July
Quarter 2 July, August and September 1 October - 28 October
Quarter 3 October, November and December 1 January - 28 January
Quarter 4 January, February and March  1 April - 28 April

To make your declaration and payment, use the 'retailer registration login

Contact the carrier bag levy team:

VAT information

If you only charge the levy, then the full 5p per bag should be paid to DAERA as VAT does not apply.

If you add your own charge on top of the levy, the full amount is considered inclusive of VAT. For example, if you charge 7p on top of the levy, then the total amount (12p) is inclusive of VAT. The total VAT in this case would be 2p. 0.83p of this relates to the levy, with 4.17p per bag payable to DAERA.

When you send in your quarterly return, the system will calculate the amount to be paid to DAERA. VAT proceeds should be paid to HM Revenue & Customs in the normal way.

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Reusing bags

You should only use clean bags in a good state of repair. Clean your long life reusable bags often. Bags which are torn or contaminated with food should be recycled at carrier bag recycling points.

Legislation and guidance

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