The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors will consider establishing a disposable plastic bag tax of five cents per bag that, if approved, would take effect July 1 as officials aim to reduce the use of the ubiquitous bags.
The proposed plastic bag tax would apply countywide, including to all of the incorporated towns, and are subjected to any grocery store, convenience store, or drugstore from customers who make in-store purchases, to-go purchases, delivery purchases, and curbside pick-up purchases from its establishments, according to county staff.
County staff estimate revenues from such a tax would generate between $275,000 and $340,000 in fiscal year 2023.
Vice Chairman Koran Saines (D-Sterling), who brought the item forward in September 2020, said the action would help the environment and give residents a choice.
“The data shows a small fee will change behavior,” Saines said.
“That is what we’re trying to do while minimizing the impact on Loudoun residents by allowing people to completely avoid the tax and by keeping the fee at a [minimum] for people who decide to pay it,” he said. “This represents a step forward to a cleaner and greener Loudoun.”
In the spring of 2020, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed into law legislation that gave localities and cities the authority to impose a tax in the amount of five cents ($0.05) for each disposable plastic bag provided, whether or not provided free of charge, to a consumer of tangible personal property by retailers in grocery stores, convenience stores, or drugstores.
County staff said the Virginia Code delegates the Virginia Department of Taxation to administer, enforce, and collect the disposable plastic bag tax.
Other jurisdictions in the region have adopted or are currently considering a disposable plastic bag tax, according to the Dec. 15 staff report.
County staff said the five-cent tax will be effective in the counties of Fairfax and Arlington, and the cities of Alexandria, Fredericksburg, and Roanoke on Jan. 1. Prince William County has indicated that any proposal for the tax would be considered as part of the FY 2023 budget process.
Vice Chairman Koran Saines (D-Sterling) made a motion to suspend the rules to vote on the matter, but it failed 5-4 needing a supermajority vote. Supervisors Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), Caleb Kershner (R-Catoctin), Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) and Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg) voted against the motion.
Supervisors opposing the motion said they were concerned with the impact on residents, businesses and adding a new tax.
“What bothers me most about this is that it’s just another tax,” Kershner said. “I have a real problem with supporting new additional taxes. This will never go away. As a matter of fact, it may incentivize keeping plastic bags because it’s because small localities may end up depending on them.”
Saines’ motion to send the item for action to the Jan. 18 business meeting with the board voting 6-3 in support of the action. Buffington, Kershner and Letourneau voted against the motion.
Retailers are permitted to keep a portion of the tax collected, accounting for the discount in the form of a deduction when submitting their tax return, the Dec. 15 staff report stated. The amount of the discount decreases over time as follows:
Until Jan. 1, 2023, retailers are allowed to retain two cents from the tax collected on each disposable plastic bag and one cent afterwards.
Outreach efforts are expected to cost $50,000 in advance of implementation of the disposable plastic bag tax. Staff said sufficient funding has been identified in existing fiscal year 2022 appropriations.