Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires David Muniz at the Launch of the USAID-GDT Improved Tax Collection Program

Your Excellency Mr. Prime Minister; Director Shehaj; ladies and gentlemen, good evening.

Last year, our friends at the Ministry of Finance and the Tax Directorate asked us for assistance as they sketched out a far-sighted plan to fight informality and transform Albania’s revenue collection system.  Our answer was that we were happy to do it as long as we could contribute where help was needed most – and that is, in catching the big fish – the companies and entities we all know rake in millions in profits but which manage to avoid their obligation to pay taxes.

I’m pleased to announce that tonight, the United States is answering your request.  The U.S. Embassy in Albania, through our hard-working team at USAID, is pleased to announce that it has begun a specially-tailored expert assistance program with Albania’s General Directorate of Taxation to improve tax collection.

As we all know, the government’s anti-formality campaign is a long-overdue measure, something for which many in the donor and business communities have been calling for many years.  We strongly support this campaign.  At the same time, we also know that this effort has been challenging.  Put simply, as Albania’s economy has developed over the past decades, those who would avoid taxes have moved at a faster speed than the government has been able to counter them.  This program will help address that issue.  While it’s relatively easy to deal with informality among small businesses, the toughest part – and the biggest successes – depend on catching the big fish.

It’s because of this that we’ve invited this evening some of Albania’s largest and most influential businesses to announce this program because we understand the importance of the role of the General Tax Directorate for businesses.

It is essential to promote a fair business climate by ensuring that all businesses play by and are subjected to the same rules.  These businesses will be among your biggest supporters in this effort.

In order find the right solution, we turned to a special organization – the Financial Services Volunteer Corps, which identifies professionals in the world of banking, finance, and taxation, who wish to volunteer their time and talent to help others.  I have had the opportunity to meet with some of the experts who will be participating in this program.  They are very impressive people and dedicated professionals.  They are taking time from their jobs in the financial and tax fields in the United States to come to Albania, and I am sure that they will have a big impact at the Tax Directorate.

I will point out Ms. Hiller and Ms. Manion, from the New York State Department of Tax and Finance.  They represent one of the most sophisticated and capable tax departments in the United States, and they bring with them decades of successful experience.  With the additional skills and knowledge they will bring to Albania,

GDT will develop the capacity to conduct effective and equitable tax audits and investigations.  In short, they are experts at catching big fish, and they’re here to help you.

They are also here to support your efforts to overhaul public financial management and strengthen your capacity to collect revenues.

FSVC will help build the Directorate’s ability to investigate large-scale evaders, which will ultimately reduce the burden on legitimate businesses by helping target tax audits on high-risk businesses.

Through their work and that of other volunteers, they will also help improve intelligence collection for tax fraud investigations, help restructure tax fraud investigations, help build enforcement capacity, improve debt collections, and develop performance management indicators for the GDT.

All of these things are important, because, as we know, it is imperative for Albania to improve its public finance management in order to fight informality, increase revenues to provide quality public services, and strengthen public confidence in the system.

I look forward to following this program as its helps the government to improve its dialogue with businesses about tax compliance and increase the professionalism and effectiveness of the General Tax Directorate.

To FSVC, I say thank you for volunteering.  You won’t find a warmer, more pro-American place to work anywhere.  I am sure you will be enriched by your experience here.  To USAID, thank you for getting this program together so quickly.

To The Prime Minister and Director Shehaj, thank you for your enthusiastic support for this program.  I look forward to following its success.