How to Open a Business in Croatia Online: No Waiting, Some Legwork, Plenty of Stress

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N. Demark

If you open a business and a venomous clerk wasn’t around to make your life miserable, did you really open a business?

Let me start by apologising for the somewhat misleading title – this is not going to be a step-by-step guide to opening a business in Croatia, but a rundown of my personal experience with what felt like a minor crusade in the wasteland called the Croatian bureaucracy.

If you’re looking to learn more about the process of becoming a business owner in this country, you have two options:

1) Read this piece about how to open an obrt. It will provide a great overview of different types of businesses, insight into formal characteristics of an obrt (sole proprietorship), and a useful guide on opening your own, if you’re up to face the challenge of being an entrepreneur.

2) Once you’re done with the previous item, take a look at this piece about what opening a business in Croatia can feel like if you’re not a resident of Croatia and/or aren’t fluent in the language, just so you know which potential obstacles might be looming on the horizon. Long story short, a Croatian-speaking friend will be a much better ally in this particular process than any lawyer you could hire.

If you’re not really looking to start a business career, but would just like to indulge in other people’s questionable life decisions, feel free to skip all of the above and read on.


Part I – the application

So, I decided to open an obrt. My colleague who wrote the article linked in no.1 above opted for the default way of opening a business: collected all required documentation, paid the fee and turned in the documents at the obrt registry office. I decided for the other option, opening the obrt online using E-građanin (e-citizen), a handy system that allows you to access various state registries and download personal documents such as birth or residence certificates. Earlier this year, they introduced the option of opening an obrt using the same system; armed with knowledge acquired on various forums and websites, I faced the online forms of the e-obrt service.

From a formal point of view, the process is the same in both cases, apart from the online application allowing you to avoid waiting in line… and to wear pyjamas while achieving this life milestone. I’ll admit it felt a bit weird – without the dreary undertaking of stepping into state offices and hating yourself for attempting any kind of career progress, it’s hard to feel you’re carrying out an important official task. To paraphrase the famous saying, if you open a business and a venomous clerk isn’t around to make your life miserable, did you really open a business?

It seems you did, as the whole feat took a bit under 15 minutes. First you have to type in your personal information, then the name you chose for your obrt along with the main business activity you’ll be performing, followed by choosing up to 17 other activities you plan to conduct or might want to try your hand in sooner or later. Dream big.


At the end of this process, you have to attach the proof of payment of the obrt-opening fee (250 kuna) and a document specifying your relation to the business space you’ll be using, be it a deed for your own apartment or a lease contract.

The entire process resembled a software installation – next, next, next, finish. All there was left to do was to wait. I’ve read that you could expect to hear back from the registry anywhere from 7 to 22 days after you’ve turned in the application; being from Croatia, I prepared for 30. Just in case.

And then, a small miracle happened. I applied on Thursday, and what do you know, I get a call on Tuesday. Only 3 business days of waiting! Yes, Ms Demark speaking. Yes, it’s my application. Oh, it’s been approved, fantastic – wait, what?

Of course it couldn’t have been that easy. The lady on the phone told me my business space certificate might seem suspicious to the tax office later on. See, apart from the two options I mentioned above, there’s a third – in case you’re not an apartment owner or don’t want to lease a business space, you can find someone willing to let you use their own apartment as the official obrt headquarters, free of charge. As many other freelance writers, I don’t actually need the apartment itself to conduct my business; I can work from wherever I can plug in my laptop and get access to wi-fi. However, as every obrt needs an official address for business mail to be sent to – and it is a legal entity, so it cannot exist in a vacuum – I had to write something down, so I turned in a document validated by a notary, stating my relative was letting me use the apartment. To be more precise, the apartment I actually lived in.

It might look a bit shady, said the official on the phone. Shady? That’s been my residence address for more than 15 years, I said. The clerk remarked the tax office might require a lease contract. I can’t lease the apartment that’s owned – and occupied, mind you – by my family, I protested. Oh? But the owner’s surname is different than yours, the woman said.


Listen, I said, I understand what you’re getting at, but I checked all the legal requirements and this is an accepted option. After all, I’m a writer and I do most of my work outside the apartment anyway, I’m not planning to conduct any business activities in the space itself, I just needed an address for the forms.

Okay, she said, I’ll make a note of it, but you’ll need to disclose a deed to the apartment. Call me back when you’re finished and we’ll talk again in a couple of days.

A couple of days? As if. I called my relative, he scanned the deed, e-mailed it to me, I forwarded it to the clerk, nicely asking for the application to be updated as soon as possible. She replied in a heartbeat, surprised I was done so quickly, and said she’ll proceed to inscribe the obrt into the registry that very same day. Another miracle.

Two days later, my obrt was officially opened and all legal paperwork was sent to my e-citizen mailbox.

Time required: 30 minutes of actual work, 7 days of waiting
Money spent: 300 kuna (obrt fee + notary fee)
Emotional suffering: None. The clerk was extremely nice, helpful, and effective. Plus, did I mention getting to wear pyjamas?

Part II – financial matters

You got all your documentation – what next? Before you open a business bank account and go register your obrt at the tax office, you have to obtain an official obrt stamp. You can get this done in a couple of hours, and it will cost you around 100 kuna – and up, depending on how big and lavishly designed you want your stamp to be. Don’t dream big. It’s a stamp. Save your money for taxes.

I went to a bank to open a business account. That simple act comes at a price of 100-150 kuna, depending on the bank in question; you won’t be asked to pay the fee straight away, as it will get automatically withdrawn from your account once it’s up and running and your income starts rolling in. Allow yourself a minute to muse about the philosophical issue of banks charging you for the privilege of later getting charged indefinitely. Keep calm and carry on… to the tax office.

Doesn’t the sole mention of a tax office instill a sense of joy and delight? It would have been a hellish endeavour under any circumstances, but let it be known I also had a raging headache at the time. All I wanted to do was to stay in bed, crying and sleeping in turns. However, as I also wanted to be done with the whole thing as quickly as possible, I took another shot of caffeine and headed for the tax inferno – which, mind you, felt like a quest out of an ancient Greek myth.

You see, the tax office in Rijeka is located in a gigantic building in the city centre that houses multiple state offices. What it doesn’t house anywhere on the premises is a map or a plan noting locations of the offices in question. The building is a 19th century maze whose entrance could very well bear the famous inscription coined by Dante.

I abandoned all hope. I entered. I asked for directions at the front desk. I got lost 2 minutes later.

There are three (Four? Five? No one really knows) floors in the building; various wings are connected by three separate stairwells, and you have to figure out which particular stairs you need to take to arrive at the desired wing. Bear in mind you’re not entirely certain which office you’re headed to. Let’s say, for example, you were instructed to go to room C126 (not the actual number). Some of the halls are marked with plates providing a faint notion of the type of office waiting behind closed doors. The tax office isn’t marked by anything.

After five minutes of wandering the deserted halls, you find C126, then you find out the two clerks in C126 can’t help you, as it turns out that they don’t have anything to do with the tax office. They send you to B115. Can you guess what awaits behind those doors? Nothing. It’s locked. You stumble upon a living human being in the hall. You ask for guidance. They have none to offer.

Rinse and repeat a couple of times, and you get sent back to C126. You beg the clerks to at least point you to the tax office and leave it to you to hunt down the room you’re looking for. They are not sure where it is. They tell you to try, say, C112.

You find C112, knock and enter. At the end of an extremely elongated space, a clerk sits at her desk. Excuse me, not a clerk – a harpy.

WHAT, she screams.

Um. Good day. I’m looking for the tax office, they sent me –


Okay, sorry, could you point me to –

THIS IS NOT MY JOB, she screams.

Okay, but could you at least tell me where –

WHAT DO YOU WANT, she screams.

I need to inscribe my obrt in the tax registry.

WHY ARE YOU HERE THEN, she screams.


I’m kidding. God, my head hurts.

I’ve been looking for the tax office and the clerks in C126 sent me here. I’ve looked around and couldn’t find any sign marking the tax office. Do you know where exactly it’s located?


This is starting to look like the leitmotif of the day.

So I retreat, my back to the door, as I’m bidding farewell to the Queen of England. I actually go back to the front desk, explaining I’ve been to C126 but it turned out not to be the tax office – can they maybe offer another suggestion? If I haven’t found the tax office at C126, I haven’t been at C126, they say, for the tax office is there.


I go back to the hall that houses C126, this time approaching from another direction. I pass a door bearing a printed message.


Wanna guess what this says?


Of course it isn’t the tax office. This is the Twilight Zone. This is Twin Peaks. This are the X-files. This is a wormhole. How come it didn’t cross anyone’s mind to actually add another line saying where the tax office is? I don’t know, it seems to me there would be a lot fewer people looking for the tax office and bothering the non-tax-office clerks if they were told where to go. But that’s just my humble opinion.

I go back to C126. You know the saying about the definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome? I feel insane, but I have no other option at this point, so I knock, enter and plead my case one last time. Huh, strange, they say. Try C125.

C125 sends me to C120. C120 looks like they’re about to pass their last living breath, but shuffle some papers and find a list of offices. What is your surname, they ask. Demark, I say. Demark. That starts with D, they say. Yes, it does indeed. Okay, go to C130.

I find C130, along with two ladies frantically typing away. Both are incredibly nice. One on the left is my assigned tax clerk. I hand in my obrt certificate and ask to be inscribed in the tax registry. Type type type and we’re done in five minutes. Write down my number and call me if you need anything, she says with a warm smile on her face, but keep track of your finances and pay your taxes in time, and you won’t be needing me at all.

Time required: 5 minutes of actual work, 2 hours of wandering
Money spent in total: 275 kuna (stamp: 120, bank account: 150, coffee machine between two visits to C126: 5)
Emotional suffering: THIS IS NOT THE TAX OFFICE damaged me beyond repair.

Part III – health insurance + pension insurance

Oh, we’re far from done. I should note that certain parts of this stage can be carried out online as well, if you acquire a business token at the Financial Agency (FINA). I didn’t want to venture into that just yet, so I decided to complete the process on foot. Mind you, it’s entirely acceptable to split this whole ordeal into multiple days to avoid getting completely broken in a span of a few hours. But I am strong. I am victorious. I’m getting this done today, but only after I’ve had some lunch, which is just a pleasant activity to accompany the process of filling out the insurance forms. 

It doesn’t matter whether you speak the language or not. Fluency in Croatian won’t help. It goes like this:

Name and surname: We’re off to a great start.
Date of birth: I know this. I’m good at this.
Sex: Female, last time I checked. Why does everyone complain about these forms? This is so eas-
Number of working hours: ….in a day? In a week? In a month? I’m a freelancer?
Highest level of education: It doesn’t fit in the provided space? Can I just say college? University? Type of degree? Help?
Type of contribution subject: There’s a tiny square? Do they want a letter? A number? Help??

At this point, you’re very happy to have some food in front of you as you’re going through this. Of course, there’s a good chance you’ll mess up at least once along the way, and you do, and you’re proud of yourself for having bought multiple forms just in case. You still have no idea what they’re asking 75% of the time. You leave it empty. Someone is going to yell at you anyway, so better to let them yell over empty forms than for filling them out incorrectly.

There’s no more food. You brace yourself for two more offices; you know their exact location this time, but have no idea how much time you’ll spend waiting in line.

You go to the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute first. The office is empty. You’re next in line. You apologise for the absence of any useful information on the forms; the clerk laughs and says, don’t worry dear, I’ll fill them out for you. Miracle no.3.

You pick up the documents and head to the Croatian Health Insurance Fund. It’s located in the same building, a hall away from the pension insurance institute. You’re third in line. All three clerks are delightful. The one at your counter clickety-clicks, until her computer system crashes. She sends you to the adjacent counter. The other clerk’s computer system crashes. They laugh, instead of screeching at you like it’s your own fault. Miracle no.4.

They send you to the third counter. You attempt to make a joke, stating you might be cursed and musing whether it’s better to return the following day. Oh no, dear, they say, this is the last thing you need to do to complete your obrt registration, why would you give up now? We’ll sort this out.

And they do. And you’re done. It took a total of five minutes.

Time required: 10 minutes + 2 hours of despair while trying to decipher the forms
Money spent: 60 kuna (insurance forms + lunch + coffee)
Emotional suffering: a moderate dose of questioning your own intellectual capacity while staring at the said forms; other than that, none



Time spent in total: 45 minutes of actual work, countless hours of gazing into the abyss
Money spent in total: around 600 kuna
Emotional suffering at large: substantial, but providing you’re good at denial and repression, you push it away into a little dark corner of your mind and swear never to look back on this day, with an exception of quickly reliving the experience to write about it. And just like that – poof, gone again.

To go back to the original premise, if a venomous clerk isn’t around to scream at you, did you even open a business? Well, apart from a single harpy I ran into, I was surprised by the line of pleasant interactions with every state office clerk I approached that day. After all, the harpy wasn’t responsible for any of the tasks I had to complete, so we won’t even bring her into the equation. Considering the dreaded state offices in general, my experience was a rare gem, the Holy Grail of Croatian bureaucracy. No waiting at all. No mistakes getting blamed on me. Crusade won. 

Rest assured, being very skeptical, I checked on many occasion – the business is indeed up and running. Naturally, the only thing left to do is to remain petrified in a state of eternal anxiety, as there’s no way anything could go that smoothly in Croatia.



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