Serbia

Ease of Doing Business Rank: 44

Overview

 

Geographic location

Serbia is a landlocked southeastern European country.

Montenegro, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina lie to the west, Kosovo and the Republic of North Macedonia to the south, Bulgaria and Romania to the east, and Hungary to the north.

Spoken language

Serbia’s official language is Serbian, spoken by approximately 90.1% of the country’s population. Five minority languages are also in official use by the provincial administration: Hungarian, Romanian, Slovak, Rusyn and Croatian.

Younger Serbs may speak some English while older Serbs may speak German and/or French.

Population

The 2019 population estimate is 8.77 million.

According to 2011 census data from the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, Belgrade is the largest city (1.65 million), followed by Novi Sad (341,625) and Niš (260,237).

All other cities and towns have populations of less than 200,000.

Popular industries

The top industries in Serbia are energy, automotive, machinery, mining, and agriculture, chemicals, consumer goods and pharmaceuticals.

Education

The Times Higher Education World Rankings does not include Serbia in its rankings.

The Legatum Prosperity Index ranks Serbia’s educational system 33rd out of 149.

Popular entity types

The most common type of business entities in Serbia are Private Limited Liability Company, Joint Stock Company, General Partnership and Limited Partnership.

The overwhelming majority of businesses are in the form of a Limited Liability Company.

Serbian incentives for business

Serbia offers a foreign tax credit for corporate withholding taxes paid on dividends from foreign sources and CIT paid abroad, providing the taxpayer holds at least 10 percent of shares for at least one year before filing taxes. Unused tax credits can be carried forward for five years.

Companies making large investments in property, plant, and equipment (RSD 1 billion) enjoy a ten-year tax holiday, providing they employ and retain at least 100 new workers.

Serbia also offers a double deduction for research and development costs. However, this double CIT reduction does not apply to the mining, oil, or gas industries.

Businesses earning royalty income from copyrights may qualify for an 80% reduction in taxable income.

Serbia also offers a tax credit to qualifying innovative companies, up to a maximum of RSD 100 million.

History & Features

 

Main cities for business

Belgrade is the capital and economic center of Serbia. Novi Sad is the second largest city and the most important economic hub after Belgrade.

Popular historical & tourist attractions

Serbia has a long, rich cultural history. The country includes 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Roman Palace of Galerius from the late 3rd and early 4th centuries.

The Dečani Monastery, built in the mid-14th century, is an excellent example of Byzantine-Romanesque ecclesiastical culture at its peak. The interior frescoes demonstrate the unique Balkan painting style of the age.

Serbia is also recognized for its medieval tombstones, or stećci, dating between the 12th to 16th centuries. Each tombstone offers decorative motifs and inscriptions and reflects local traditions.

Belgrade Fortress in the capital city consists of an upper and lower town and an expansive park. Each ruling power through the ages left their mark of the fortress, from Roman to Austro-Hungarian. The present-day park was once a battlefield.

The main street connects the park to the central square and the cultural heart of the city. Popular sites include a Princess’ residence, museums, stunning churches and cathedrals and the cobbled streets in the Bohemian quarter of Skadarlija.

The Serbian Royal Palace, White Palace, and the Royal Chapel of Apostle Andrew The First-Called sit high above the city. Royalty still lives in part of the complex.

Serbia is also a country of stunning natural beauty. Ada Ciganlija on a peninsula on the River Sava attracts countless visitors due to its dense forests and fantastic beaches.

Just outside of Belgrade lies the plains of Avala with deciduous and pine park forests. The pure mountain water traveling down the conical Avala Mountain are a protected national resource. At the peak of the mountain you’ll find Avala Tower, the tallest building in the Balkans at 204.8 meters.

The mighty Danube and the Sava Rivers meet in Belgrade too. This gives way to a teeming river culture, rafting, music and relaxation along the riverbanks. Many consider the nightlife in Belgrade the best in Europe.

History

Slavic tribes settled the Balkans during the 6th and 7th centuries. By the 8th century, the clans united to form the First Serbian Principality. This evolved into a Grand Principality by the 11th century.

Christianity played a role in the region since at least the 2nd century. By 1217, it became the state religion under the Serbian Orthodox Church.

In 1345, the Serbian Empire spanned much of the Balkans. The population grew and flourished. However, the Ottoman Turks continually threatened the area and many battles ensued. By 1540, the Ottoman Empire controlled Serbia.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the region was in upheaval. After a series of uprisings, Serbian peoples established the Principality of Serbia in 1817.

By 1867, they had achieved de facto independence and became a kingdom in 1882. After winning the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913, Serbia regained much of its former territory.

In 1918, the Serbian Kingdom united with neighboring powers to become The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. In 1929, this became the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia.

Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941. Russian forces liberated Belgrade in 1944. However, the Communist Party won the election in 1945 and the country was governed by a strict regime.

In 1948, Yugoslavia broke away from Russia. After the death of Yugoslavia’s leader in 1980 and a series of wars in the 1990s, Yugoslavia splintered into several regions.

Present-day Serbia became an independent state in 2006. Today, it operates under a parliamentary republic and has a transitional economy.

Other relevant facts

According to the 2011 census, most inhabitants identify as Serb (83.3%), followed by Hungarian (3.5%), Romani (2.1%), Bosniak (2%), and other ethnicities.

The majority of Serbs are Serbian Orthodox (85%), followed by Roman Catholic (5%), Muslim (3%), Protestant (1%) and other religions or no religious affiliation (6%).

Additional Information for Business

According to Forbes’ 2019 Best Countries for Business, Serbia is the 56th best country in the world for conducting business.

The 2019 Index of Economic Freedom rates Serbia 69th globally and states, “Deeper institutional reforms are also needed to modernize tax administration, tackle bureaucracy, reduce corruption, and strengthen the judicial system.”

World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings rate Serbia 44th for ease of doing business in the world.

Serbia Entity Support Services by Blueback Global

Blueback Global provides a one-stop integrated solution to managing all aspects of your global operations. We can take the burden off you or your company’s internal resources by managing Entity Setup, Local Payroll, Accounting, Tax Reporting, HR Admin and Regulatory Compliance matters associated with operating in a foreign country. Our services are designed to be flexible and customized, so whether you are starting from entity registration, or have already registered but need support in setting payroll or hire employees, we can help at every point of the process.

The common scenarios that may give rise to the need for Blueback Global’s services include the following:

With our integrated approach, you can expect the following experience:

We have an initial complimentary meeting to discuss the scope, objectives and plans for your expansion plan into Serbia. After this meeting, you can expect a follow-up proposal from Blueback Global within 1 to 3 business days, that outlines that the approach, scope of work and expected deliverables and outcome. Thereafter, our implementation team will then work closely with your team to register the local entity, set up payroll, accounting process, employee social security and benefits. We will then develop a mutually agreed timeline and approach for ongoing payroll, accounting, tax reporting and HR support. Blueback Global will set up a compliance calendar so that you know exactly what and when compliance items such as tax reporting and payroll returns are due. We will of course facilitate all of these, so you do not have to keep track of the compliance dates.

Our goal is to make the process as smooth, simple and successful as possible, and remove the anxiety of operating in a foreign location, to deliver a great customer experience.

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