TIRANA, February 24, 2016 – The Financial Services Volunteer Corps (FSVC) has launched a new USAID-funded program in Albania with the General Directorate of Taxation (GDT) to improve the country’s ability to collect taxes. With an informal economy comprising nearly 50 percent of GDP, the Albanian government loses out on potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues each year. The increased income generated by more efficient tax collection will help to pay off Albania’s public debt, level the playing field among entrepreneurs gaining unfair advantages over their tax-paying competitors, and improve the overall quality of life for Albanian citizens through improved public services.
In his opening remarks at FSVC’s program launch on February 18, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama enthusiastically welcomed FSVC’s assistance and stated, “I’ve been and remain convinced that the sooner Albanians, all of them, pay taxes, the sooner we will be able to buy the civilization all of us want for our children… I have every reason to believe that with the assistance of [FSVC], we will be able to [tap into] the great potential of the fight against informality with integrity and professionalism.”
U.S. Chargé d’Affaires David Muniz supported the Prime Minister’s sentiments by remarking, “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.”
The program consists of a series of short-term technical assistance projects and will assist the GDT with conducting effective and equitable tax audits and investigations over the next year. It will also improve tax collection by building enforcement capacity, increasing debt collections, and developing performance management indicators for the GDT. During its initial mission, FSVC volunteer experts from the NY State Department of Taxation and Finance, Ms. Nonie Manion and Ms. Amanda Hiller, worked with the GDT’s Director-General and staff, participated in on-site tax audits to identify weaknesses, and developed an assessment report to address technical assistance needs.
“FSVC’s peer-to-peer model enables outstanding financial and tax experts, such as Ms. Manion and Ms. Hiller, to share their extensive experience with their Albanian counterparts,” said FSVC Chairman, William Donaldson. “Their contribution will assist the government of Albania in achieving its goal of reducing the size of the informal economy and reaping the benefits of increased revenues on behalf of all Albanian citizens.”
FSVC President and CEO Andrew Spindler added, “This new program represents an important expansion FSVC’s vital work in Albania. For more than 15 years, we have helped to strengthen the financial sector and economy, and we are building on that work now to improve the government’s capacity to fund the provision of needed public services.”