The Plastic Bag Fee (or tax) begins today in Howard County…here are some things you should know:


The state legislation that enabled Howard County to implement a bag fee (link above) includes the following definitions:

  • Store – “a retail establishment that provides disposable bags to customers as a result of the sale of a product.”
    • An important note – this is not limited to grocery stores – this is for all businesses in this county (Walmart, Target, food take out from any restaurant or bar…all businesses of any type).
  • Disposable bag – “a plastic bag provided by a store to a customer at the point of sale.“
  • Disposable bag does not include – “a durable plastic bag with handles that is at least 2.25 mils thick and is designed and manufactured for multiple reuse.” Other exemptions such as meat and produce thin plastic bags, bulk item bags, and pharmacy bags are also listed. See the complete list here.

For Customers

As of October 1, 2020, consumers will be charged five cents per disposable plastic bag used “when the customer pays for the products placed in the disposable bag.”

  • If you choose to use a disposable plastic bag provided by the store, the cashier will charge you five cents per bag used.
  • You will be charged five cents per disposable plastic bag provided with your curbside, phone and/or internet order.
  • Self-service customers using disposable plastic bags must still pay five cents per bag at self-service checkouts.
  • You will NOT be charged if you use reusable bags at the store cashier checkout or self-checkout.
  • Thin plastic produce and meat bags will still be available at no charge.
  • Paper bags are not charged a fee. Other bags are exempt according to Section 13-1001 of the Maryland Code.

For Retailers

The new Howard County bag fee program requires stores to:

  • Document on every receipt the number of plastic bags provided and the total amount charged for the bags. There is no requirement for specific wording on the customer’s receipt, but Howard County recommends “Howard County Plastic Bag Fee” “Disposable Plastic Bag Fee” or “Bag Fee” as space permits.
  • Retain one cent out of every five cents collected per bag to cover administrative costs.
  • Work with the Howard County Finance department to report quarterly the number of bags provided to customers and remit the fees (4 out of every 5 cents collected). The Howard County Finance Department has more details about how to remit fees on their webpage,
  • Display signage where carts are given out and at cashier points of sale. Here are downloadable versions:.
  • If you provide MORE than 1,000 disposable plastic bags during the calendar quarter, you must report the total number of bags and remit $0.04 for each disposable plastic bag provided to your customer at the point of sale to the Director of Finance. Remittances are due for the quarter on or before your last business day of each calendar quarter (3/31, 6/30, 9/30, 12/31). Payments will only be accepted via e-check online at Your first payment is due on or before 12/31/2020.
  • Any retailer that fails to remit payment to the Director of Finance as indicated will be issued an estimated bill and subject to 1% late fee per month or part of month that the remittance is past due.
      • If you provide LESS than 1,000 disposable plastic bags at the point of sale during the calendar quarter, you must report the total number of bags using the Howard County Minimum Bag Fee Exemption form. This form should be emailed to on or before your last business day of each calendar quarter (3/31, 6/30, 9/30, 12/31). Your first form is due on or before 12/31/2020.
      • If you DO NOT PROVIDE disposable plastic bags at the point of sale, you must complete the Howard County Annual Bag Fee Exemption Certification form. This form should be emailed to by July 31st of each year except for the first year, which is due by 10/31/2020.
      • If you DO NOT SELL products at the point of sale, you must complete and agree to the terms of the Howard County Bag Fee Program Exemption Agreement. This form should be completed and emailed to by 10/31/2020. This is a new option based on feedback received thus far.
      • Failure to collect the fees, remit the fees, submit the required information, keep the records, or post the signs as required is a Class A civil violation subject to civil penalties. Imposition of a civil penalty does not relieve the store of any requirements.

Here is my history of past articles related to this bag fee / tax here in Howard County:

Scott E


  1. With all of the things that are frustrating our lives, this adds one more thing to annoy us.

    Just remember – THIS IS A TAX. And, once again, the people that least can afford it, are forced to pay it. If you are high pay earner, $ 10 – 20 a year does not effect you. If you are a low pay earner or senior citizen, every dollar counts. Plus, it puts another burden on small retailers with a threat of penalty fees if they are slow to calculate.

    You can be angry with the HoCo county council (Liz Walsh, Opal Jones, etc) and Calvin Ball. But, it was the HoCo legislators that got it authorized by Annapolis (Terri Hill, Guy Guzzone, Clarence Lam, Vanessa Atterbury, Eric Ebersole, Shane Pendergrass, Courtney Watson, etc). If you are annoyed, let each one know your feelings.

    Now, everyone can jump in and say how much this is going to help the environment.


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