In part 1 of this series we looked at the real data about bag taxes (not ever discussed in public forums) out of Montgomery County…and in part 2 we will take a look at the data out of Washington DC. According to the websites from the DC Government… the law in DC states:

Effective January 1, 2010, the Act requires all District businesses that sell food or alcohol to charge a $.05 fee for each paper or plastic disposable bag distributed with any purchase, with certain exemptions. Most businesses are required to remit $.04 of each $.05 fee to the Office of Tax and Revenue on their sales tax return. Businesses that offer a rebate to customers who bring their own bag are only required to remit $.03 of each $.05 fee. Remitted fees are deposited into the Fund.

The Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Support Act of 2013 requires DDOE to publish an annual summary report for the Anacostia River Clean Up and Protection Fund, which receives revenues from disposable bag fees and other sources.

Now that report does not provide a summary of number of bags taxed…but does provide data on the amount of money collected. Here is what they reported as of FY 2017:

The thing to remember when looking at the chart above is that this tax has never increased in cost (5 cents per bag) since 2010. As the amount of money increases…the number of bags taxed at checkout has also increased.

Per the data listed above…the bag tax revenue rose from $1,845,313.25 to $2,382,747.11 with that number rising each and every year. In that time frame, that is a more than a 29.12% increase in revenue…so we can assume an equal increase in the number of bags taxed.

Now this tax was put in place to “change the shopping habits of shoppers” ( a term I love at this point…because of how silly it is) and encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags to stores that charge this tax. Looking at the data I can say that is not happening.

Want to review that data…check here:  https://doee.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ddoe/publication/attachments/FY17%20Bag%20Law%20Expenditure%20Report.pdf

But Scott E, more people live in Washington DC in 2017 than did in 2011. Sure, I admit that is true…but how many more? I checked.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011 Washington DC had an estimated population of 619,602. In 2017 the estimated population was 695,691. So that would be a 12.28% increase in population. Here is the chart:

So we have a 12.28% increase in population and a 29.12% increase in the number of bags being taxed at checkout. Let that sink in for a moment.

I have a hard time squaring the circle that this TAX/FEE on shoppers is doing what the goal is…which is to punish shoppers with a tax for accepting bags from stores at checkout and get them into a habit bringing reusable bags to not pay this tax/fee…thus (if it was working) should be reducing the number of bags taxed at checkout if people changed their shopping habits. The data (to me) does not say this approach is working. More bags are leaving stores…year in and year out since the tax has gone in place…even significantly outpacing the estimated population growth.

These are not the numbers you see discussed (and probably wont see discussed in the future) by elected officials and special interest groups that support this tax/fee. That this why I am putting it out there for my readers in our community.

I am well over 550 words in this post…so that is it for part 2…I will have part 3 VERY soon…where I plan to take a close look at the money this tax generates locally and ask the necessary question…is this really all about the money?

Stay tuned for part 3.

Scott E

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