Croatian Chamber of Commerce Membership to Remain Mandatory

Lauren Simmonds

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As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes, changes to the law on the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) which were announced after last week’s meeting of coalition partners and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic left many astonished. Most of those who had their jaws hit the floor in amazement have been waiting for years for a clear message that Croatian Chamber of Commerce membership should become voluntary. Of course, that isn’t going to happen.

The idea is, as most expected, to keep Croatian Chamber of Commerce membership as a mandatory obligation, but to release small companies from the obligation to pay their membership fees.

The very fact that some companies will remain under the obligation to pay is doubtful because it brings enterprise owners into the muddy waters of constitutional inequality, since in settling an obligation, the constitution doesn’t distinguish between categories of companies headquartered in Croatia.

The move has been made as a partial solution to the problem of dissatisfaction among some company owners with the existing Croatian Chamber of Commerce membership model, which, as lawyers say, if realised according to the announced concept, will open new divisions and continue to generate a sense of injustice among the country’s various business owners.

In other words, if we’re going to change and abolish Croatian Chamber of Commerce membership fees, then such a reform should be well thought out and prepared for. For now, neither the Croatian Chamber of Commerce nor the relevant Ministry of the Economy have received more detailed information on when the new rules should start to be applied, ie what the transitional period for releasing companies from paying Croatian Chamber of Commerce membership fees will actually look like or be.

Unofficially, it can be heard that this concept envisages a series of changes in the very definition of the size of companies, as well as that Croatian Chamber of Commerce membership fees paid by a smaller number of companies will be “corrected”. There are no details on it all yet, but the existing criteria by which the size of the company and the corresponding fee were determined in the Croatian Chamber of Commerce differed from the criteria set by the law on accounting.

According to this law, companies are classified into micro and small, medium and large enterprises depending on their respective amount of total assets, income and the average number of employees during the business year.

Micro-enterprises mustn’t exceed two of the three conditions – they mustn’t have assets of more than 2.6 million kuna, revenues of more than 5.2 million kuna and they can’t have any more than 10 employees, small enterprises may not have more than 30 million kuna in assets, 60 million kuna in revenues and more than 50 workers, while medium-sized enterprises can’t have more than 150 million kuna in assets, 300 million kuna in revenue or more than 250 workers.

When calculating Croatian Chamber of Commerce membership fees, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce defines three groups, the first of which, those considered small and currently make up the majority of members and should now be exempt from membership, are companies that do not exceed two of the three criteria – 7.5 million kuna in total assets, 15 million kuna in revenue and 50 employees.

The second group, medium-sized companies, are those with assets of up to 30 million kuna and revenues of up to 59 million kuna, and 250 employees. This category of enterprises currently pays a monthly Croatian Chamber of Commerce membership fee in the amount of 1083 kuna, while large enterprises who exceed two of the three aforementioned criteria are obliged to pay a considerable sum of 3973 kuna per month.

When it comes to just how much the membership fees could increase, there’s no unofficial information yet, but it’s likely that this will follow. At this moment in time, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce collects about 160 million kuna from various membership fees, and about 32 million kuna from other services and activities.

The open question remains as to which of the rights will be able to continue being used by enterprises who will no longer need to pay membership fees, as well as possible membership fee hikes for those who must continue paying.

The Minister of Economy, Tomislav Coric, announced that part of the financing of the activities of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce will be transferred to the state budget, but there are still no details on the delimitation of financing from fiscal and parafiscal sources.

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