Here’s a New Tax I Can’t Bag

I’ve written in the past about the varied meanings and implications for bags. I mused that being “half in the bag” (i.e., drunk as a skunk) has some powerfully negative implications while having something “in the bag” implies success. But, bags took on a whole new meaning in my county at the beginning of this year. Our local government, having absolutely nothing important to focus on, imposed a tax of 5 cents on every bag a retailer uses to send you off with your groceries, new shoes, or carry out Chinese. From the moment this tax went into effect, I’ve been writing a scathing blog in my head. I planned to lambast the County Council for yet another unnecessary intrusion of government into our lives. I planned to point out all the unintended consequences of this inane law, like the fact that the local non-profit food bank that uses bags to give poor people food may have to pay taxes to the county government in order to provide this food and the grocery chain that supplies the food bank with food and bags may have to pay a tax as well. Or, the fact that I now have to pick up my dog’s poop with my bare hands since I have no plastic grocery bags in the pantry.


Without plastic grocery bags, what will I use??


This picture has nothing to do with this blog, but I found it while searching for a picture of poop in a bag and I simply had to include it!

But, before I could get around to putting this all down into bits and bytes (originally, I wrote “…putting this all down on paper…..”, but that sounds so 20th Century), I did a little math, something my readers know I love to do.  And, eureka, I came to a very different conclusion. I decided to calculate what this new tax might cost me on an annual basis. Here’s a very quick back of the envelope:

  • 10 bags of groceries, once a week for a year = 520 bags
  • 3 carry out meals per week (yeah, we don’t cook so much), 2 bags per meal = 312 bags
  • Other shopping (total guesswork) = 100 bags
  • Other (even more guesswork, but I’m trying to be conservative) = 100 bags

GRAND TOTAL: 1,032 bags per year @ 5 cents per bag

==> Drum roll, please………$51.60 in bag taxes per year

Since these were all estimates, let’s just round off to 1,000 bags and $50 a year, if I opt to take a bag from the vendor each time vs. bringing my own reusable bag. This is where the light bulb went off and I decided to write a thank you note to the County Council instead of a scathing letter. Before this tax was levied I got my bags for free, which was nice, but it left me with the daily challenge of finding ways to annoy the environmentalists. Now, every time I go to a store I can spend 5 cents and annoy an environmentalist. That’s $50 a year to annoy the tree huggers. I would have paid $500. Thanks County Council. I owe you.

About Bruce Robertson

Bruce Robertson is an amateur writer and professional provocateur
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5 Responses to Here’s a New Tax I Can’t Bag

  1. BlueLoom says:

    While I don’t often agree with my, um, “close relative” Bruce, I happen to agree with him on the nuisance value of the 5-cent bag tax. What mystifies me is why the retailers in jurisdictions that have imposed this tax have not risen up and dumped crates of tea into their harbors. It must be a tax-collection nightmare for them. And, trust me, they don’t do it for free. I have a small, sole-proprietorship company to sell my handcrafted items. When I sell an item in Virginia, I must collect the 5% Virginia sales tax. I report this to the state quarterly (large retailers report, I believe, monthly), but here’s what a lot of people probably don’t know: I don’t send the state the full 5%. The state pays me a minuscule amount for collecting its taxes for them. I’m sure it’s the same with the Montgomery County bag tax: the retailers collect 5 cents for each bag they give out, but almost certainly the county allows them to keep some part of the collected money for having done the county’s job as tax collector.

    I realize that it’s not just the money that the county wants. It wants to discourage the handing out of plastic bags that may or may not have degraded by my grandchildren’s grandchildren’s lifetimes. But surely there must be a better way to achieve this goal.

  2. Bonnie Miller says:

    Don’t see how a tree-hugger is going to be annoyed with YOU spending $50/year on bags?!?! Seems to me the tree huggers/environmentalists won that battle in the great war……

  3. I totally agree with you! The Health Food store gives me an awful look if I request a bag. I’m just not into carrying my little bag which I forget all the time. Besides, I put my garbage in those bags & carry wet bathing suits and all manner of things. Thank. You make me feel better.

  4. Annoyed Resident says:

    Montgomery county, in the Peoples Republic of Maryland? Unless some other county i don’t know of started this. It really is another way to take money from us to give the county more money to spend on illegal job centers. I plan on moving.

    • Annoyed Resident, indeed this is Moco, in the PRM. before you move, go back and calculate how cheap it is to annoy the treehuggers with this tax. Maybe consider having your groceries double bagged. The economics are still solid!

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