The Scottish Carrier Bag Tax or The Single Use Carrier Bags Charge (Scotland) Regulations have been passed by Scottish Parliament and take effect in Scotland on Monday 20th October 2014.

You can download a PDF document that explains more about the Scottish Carrier Bag Tax please click here



Please see below some basic Q & A’s that will hopefully help to explain the key points around the new legislation…

Q. How much is the new tax? 

A. There is a minimum charge of 5 pence per bag that must be charged by all Scottish retailers SELLING to their customer at the time of any purchase on their premises where a non exempted carrier bag is taken.

Q. Does my business need to charge the Scottish Carrier Bag Tax?

A. If you are a retailer in Scotland using carrier bags that are not in the exempt category the answer is yes if you are SELLING goods that are not in the exempted list. You need to charge at least 5p per carrier bag taken during the sale of your goods to your customer. The customer is the person who needs to pay the tax, not you! This is to push a public change of habit, not for tax raising purposes.

Q. How should my business collect the tax?

A. If you are a small retailer in Scotland with less than 10 employees you still need to collect the tax but it can be done by a collection jar on your counter rather than officially through your till point. All you need to do is ask your customer if they require a carrier bag and if they do ask them to pop 5p in the Carrier Bag Tax collection jar. If you are a larger company with more than 10 full time employees it makes sense to collect it through your till to keep an accurate record of the tax collected since reporting and record keeping are both compulsory for larger retailers.

Q Where does the money go?

A. The short answer is retailers can keep it and make that decision themselves. There’s no legislation to say that the collector must donate it to a good cause. Retailers can sign up to the Carrier Bag Commitment which then means the proceeds should be donated to a charity or good cause of choice once appropriate costs have been deducted. It is up to you to collect the money and donate it as frequently as you can manage if you are a small retailer. Larger retailers with more than 10 full time staff should collect the tax through a documented process and donate it within the timelines shown below.

Q. Does my business need to keep a record of the Scottish Carrier Bag Tax paid?

A. Any business with more than 10 full time staff members working 35 hours per week (or part time staff members who total the equivalent of 10 full time staff members) must keep a written record of… a) the number of carrier bags used. b) the amount of tax collected. c) any expenses resulting from the collection of the tax. d) any VAT portioned to the tax. e) any reasonable costs incurred during the collection process.  Record keeping must start 20th October 2014 and records should be kept for at least 3 years from 31st May 2015.  The new reporting year commences on 7th April 2015 and on that date annually thereafter.  Your local authority council will be your point of contact. They have the powers to do spot checks and enforcement resulting in fines for non compliance.

Q. What carrier bags and bags are included in the Scottish Carrier Bag Tax?

A. In short ANY bag made from paper, polythene or corn / maize starch is chargeable where the retailer is SELLING goods to the customer with the exception of polythene carrier bags measuring more than 404mm x 439mm and more than 49 micron which are classed as re-useable so are excluded. Promotional bags are not included in the tax as they do not involve the actual sale of goods. Very small polythene bags measuring 125mm x 125mm (or smaller) are exempt. Very small paper bags measuring less than 180mm x 260mm with a gusset less than 50mm are also exempt. In other words, miniscule bags with very little practical use are exempt!

All bags and carrier bags are chargeable under the 5p taxation if they are not a Bag for Life that already is charged to the paying customer ie a 10p polythene carrier Bag for Life option popular in many supermarkets. Bags and carrier bags that have been “free” previously will fall under the umbrella of being taxable unless exempted.

Q. What sorts of businesses and carrier bags are exempt from the Scottish Carrier Bag Tax?

A. Cotton, jute, juco, nylon, NWPP and other long life materials – all materials seen to be eco-friendly or durable and for reuse are exempt as long as they are clearly marked that the carrier bags or bags are designed for re-use. All bags, no matter if paper or polythene that come in direct contact with human or animal food are exempt. All bags used to carry medicines are exempt. All bags used to carry knives, axes and blades are exempt. All bags used to package bulbs and seeds are exempt. All bags used to carry foods contaminated with soil ie fresh potatoes are exempt.

FOOD RETAILERS… Any business selling uncooked, but packaged meat, chicken or fish can use a carrier bag measuring no greater than 205mm wide x 125mm gusset x 458mm high without charging the 5p bag tax.  ESC’s small vest bag which is 200mm x 300mm x 406mm is a great daily shopper size and would be exempt. Other items exempted include gusseted box liners.

AQUATIC SHOPS… All bags for carrying live fresh water animals ie fish are exempt.

ON BOARD RETAILERS…All bags used on board aeroplanes, ships, buses and trains are exempt.

MAIL ORDER BUSINESS…All mail order courier bags are exempt from the Scottish Carrier Bag Tax.