Information and guidance regarding the Carrier Bag Levy in Northern Ireland


The overriding objective of the levy is to protect the environment by achieving significant reductions in the number of bags in circulation.  The reduction in bags in circulation saves natural resources, reduces the need for landfill and makes our country both cleaner and greener and a better place to live and do business.

Situations where the levy applies:

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).

Situations where the levy does 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

Video for Shoppers: 

Carrier Bag Levy Information Video for Shoppers


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

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

Video for Retailers:

Carrier Bag Levy Information Video for Retailers


Pay online

​To make your declaration and payment online, use the Carrier bag levy retailer registration login 

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 make your declaration, the system will calculate the amount to be paid to DAERA. VAT proceeds should be paid to HM Revenue & Customs in the normal way.

How the money is used

The carrier bag levy was introduced in 2013 and the proceeds generated are used to deliver local projects to both enhance and improve the environment. The Environment Fund is one of the mechanisms through which the proceeds of the carrier bag levy have been used to allow not-for-profit organisations and councils to deliver key environmental priorities across Northern Ireland. Through funding these projects, the carrier bag levy proceeds helps to sustain, improve and enrich the natural environment in Northern Ireland.

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.


DAERA has also published guidance on the:


You can also find further information on Carrier Bag Levy statistics.

Further Information

If you would like any further information please contact the Carrier Bag Levy Team.




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