Thursday 19 October 2017

Dunnes forced to pay €36m plastic-bag tax bill

Aoife Finneran and Sarah Stack

DUNNES Stores has been ordered to pay a €36.4m tax bill after it failed to prove that certain plastic bags provided on the shop floor were exempt from the levy.

The supermarket chain argued that only bags sold to customers at the checkout should be subject to the 22c charge.

But last night High Court judge Mr Justice John Hedigan ruled that the levy was not limited to carrier bags provided at the till.

He said that bags used to carry loose items, found around the shop floor, are also subject to the charge if they are above regulation size.

The State had earlier argued the disputed bags used by Dunnes were actually suitable for use at the tills.

It was claimed the bags were actually robust enough to carry an extensive range of goods -- and customers could use them for certain products by double and triple bagging them.

It said the bags presented litter and waste problems when available free in large quantities.

The case saw Dunnes challenge a €36.4m Revenue bill which arose over its use of plastic bags, after being served with tax assessments for 2004 to 2008.

It argued that the tax assessments were an unlawful attempt to apply the levy to plastic bags supplied for the purpose of wrapping loose items such as meat, fruit and bread.

The company argued that the definition of a plastic bag was so uncertain that it rendered the regulations invalid.

It also claimed the Revenue Commissioners had refused to provide how it calculated the money that was allegedly due.

Revenue last night confirmed that it calculated the levy that any shop should pay on plastic bags based on tax returns.

However, it would not comment on the specifics of how the €36.4m came into dispute in this case.

Mr Justice Hedigan yesterday ruled against the supermarket chain on all points and found the levy was not limited to carrier bags.

He maintained the intention was to reduce as much as possible the presence of discarded plastic bags littering our towns and countryside.

The judge ruled that the levy applied to all plastic bags provided at supermarkets, shops and service stations except for bags that fall within exemptions provided for in the legislation.

Guidance on Revenue's website confirms the bags which are excluded for the levy.

These include small bags used to contain fresh meat, fish, ice, poultry and used solely to contain loose fruit and vegetables.

Exempt

But these exempt bags should be a particular size -- 250mm wide by 345mm deep by 450mm long.

Mr Justice Hedigan also rejected Dunnes' claim that the law in question -- Section 72 of the Waste Management Act 1996 -- was unclear.

The case has been adjourned for a week to allow the sides consider the judgment.

Irish Independent

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