Nov 18, 2020

Strengthening Analytical Capacities for Measuring Tax Gap

SEE tax officials working at the ministries of finance and tax administrations in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia recently joined an online course, which addressed the complexity of the tax gap and its measurement. This was an annual event that we delivered together with the International Monetary Fund experts as part of our longstanding partnership and shared capacity development endeavors in the SEE region. The course was delivered online from October 19 to November 6, 2020. After successful completion of the course, we talked with Muhamed Hasani from the Tax Administration of Kosovo and Aleksandra Škara from the Tax Administration of Montenegro, and Nataša Arsić from Tax Administration of Serbia about the value of peer learning opportunities that put forward a discussion on how tax gap analysis can be used in modern tax administration, and how to use it to help understand the informal economy.

Mr. Hasani, Ms. Škara, and Ms. Arsić all positively commented on the quality of the workshop program and pointed out the usefulness of the “hands-on” presentation on how to prepare the necessary inputs into FAD’s Revenue Administration Gap Analysis Program (RA-GAP) VAT gap model. “IMF experts explained to us in detail the RA-GAP methodology. We had the opportunity to learn about the technicalities as well as the holistic approach that analysts should follow. Estimating the tax gap, specifically with the top-down methodology applied by IMF experts has become a valuable tool for many developing countries and their institutions that are engaged in revenue administration. VAT gap estimation is a crucial analysis that has been outsourced to third parties and hopefully it will become an internal toolkit at our agency in the near future,” said Mr. Hasani.

Ms. Škara added that the course was indeed very helpful, as Montenegro is still in its early stages of estimating the tax gap in the area of VAT and contributions. “We only started to calculate the tax gap in Montenegro fairly recently – neither the Tax Administration nor the Ministry of Finance had done this before. We are using a top-down (consumption method) approach because most of the required data is provided by National Statistics and the Tax Administration. Estimating the tax gap is one of the indicators in the ongoing Revenue Administration Reform project. In this regard, this course was highly useful for us, especially because we are at the very beginning of this process, and the general knowledge that IMF experts shared with us nicely complements what we have known so far about the tax gap,” said Ms. Škara.

In addition, Ms. Arsič highlighted the importance of peer-to-peer learning by saying: “I believe such exchange of experiences is for us who are just starting the journey of calculating the tax gap very useful and helpful. During this course, we got so many good ideas on how to advance the measurement of tax gap in our country. Additionally, we also had an opportunity to compare ourselves with other countries in the region. We are convinced this will help us leverage their experience in this area also in our country. As for the lecturers, I am grateful for their efforts to present us models for calculating the tax gap in the best possible way, as well as for sharing their knowledge in this area while being open to provide answers to all our questions.”

Ms. Arsič also commented on the usefulness of having available translation to local languages throughout the online course: “I would like to use this opportunity to thank the organizers for providing translated material for each session in a timely manner, and for doing a very good job of organizing such a long online course. I believe it was very helpful that translation to our languages was provided because addressed topics include very technical, statistical terms that are easier to follow in one’s mother tongue. This has also allowed more of us to attend and follow the course contents.”

While online courses may not necessarily be regarded as opportunities to form new friendships and professional ties that last beyond delivered events, Mr. Hasani disagrees, explaining, “I believe this course has added great value in our personal development and has expanded our networking within and beyond the region. The online discussions organized throughout the course gave us a glimpse of how other revenue agencies perform similar estimations and encouraged us to nurture collaboration with colleagues from across the region.”

Lastly, all also positively commented on the overall course organization and expressed great satisfaction with the course proceedings. As Mr. Hasani put it, “The online course organized by the CEF in cooperation with the IMF was top-notch and by far exceeded my expectations. I am grateful to the CEF and its professional staff who organized this online course and helped me learn valuable skills in this short period of three weeks.”