'Bag tax will hit smallest retailers hard'
Environment Minister Alex Attwood has confirmed that the Northern Ireland Executive intends to proceed with the imposition of a tax on disposable shopping bags in the face of strong opposition from retailers.
“I am determined that we treat the environment as what it is: one of our most valuable assets. Over 200 million carrier bags are used in NI each year. The aim of this charge is to both reduce bag usage and at the same time raise revenue that would be used to provide funding for the environment and other Government priorities. This is a green initiative. It can symbolise a change of attitude, a change in culture, a change for the better,” said Mr Attwood.
The proposed tax on ‘single use carrier bags’ is due to take effect in April 2013.
Mr Attwood said a final decisions had not yet been taken on the level of the charge and the types of bags on which it will be charged. It is believed that the tax could be imposed on paper and cardboard containers, as well as plastic bags.
The Federation of Small Businesses says the Government needs to decide whether the aim is environmental, or tax raising, and that seeking both objectives builds in conflicts.
Roger Pollen, the FSB’s head of external affairs in Northern Ireland, says: “Charging for the use of shopping bags will have far-reaching implications not only for consumers but for small business owners and the economy as a whole.”
He added that administrative costs would fall disproportionately on small traders, whereas multinational chains could cope with “almost no difficulty or cost”.
Glyn Roberts chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, says: “It will put retailers in the position as unofficial tax collectors adding to their operating costs and an already growing red tape burden.”