Being a freelancer can be both liberating and challenging. Freelancers must find jobs by themselves and take care about every aspect of the business.
More and more Croatians have decided to create their own work, especially IT and creative experts. Many foreigners are coming to Croatia as digital nomads. If you are coming from abroad, it’s important to know that working as a freelancer in Croatia may not work the same as it does in your home country, especially from a taxation and bureaucratic perspective.
In this post, we’ll cover:
- Do you need to open a company in Croatia to be a freelancer?
- How a Croatian company can hire you as a freelancer
- Where to find freelancing gigs in Croatia
- Can foreign digital nomads work in Croatia?
- Government resources for freelancers in Croatia
You certainly do not have to open a company to freelance in Croatia, but it does come with some benefits. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, which we’ll cover now.
If you do not open a company
- The Croatian company you freelance for is required to pay for your taxes, pension and healthcare (in proportion to what you earn).
- Because your contributions to pension and healthcare are calculated and paid in proportion to what you earn, it is usually much less than what you should be contributing to the system.
- It is harder to get companies to hire you because they will be required to pay for your benefits (taxes, healthcare, pension).
- You need to have a work contract in place before start of work. (We’ll talk more about the specifics of the contract below.)
If you do open a company
- It is much easier to get companies to hire you since they do not have to pay for your benefits. They simply pay your invoices as they would any other vendor.
- It is your responsibility to pay your taxes, pension and healthcare contributions.
- You must formally open a company. For certain trades, you must have a special certification.
If you do decide to open a company, the most affordable and flexible option for freelancers with no employees is to open a trade business, called an “obrt”.
The benefits of opening an obrt include:
- You can put some kind of obrt on pause, which is commonly used for seasonal businesses, during which you aren’t obligated to pay taxes, pension or healthcare contributions.
- Obrt businesses have lower tax and contribution requirements than full-fledged companies like d.o.o. or j.d.o.o.. You can read about those types of companies here.
- You do not need to pay yourself a set salary. Your profit is your income.
- You are not required to have an accountant, like you would be with a d.o.o. or j.d.o.o.
- If you have a paušalni obrt and all of your revenue is received via a giro account (e.g. you don’t accept cash), then the fiscalization requirements are lessened. In this case, you don’t need to implement FINA’s certificate to your fiscal cash desk, but your issued invoices must still meet certain standards.
There are several types of obrt, which you can read about in more detail here. We personally recommend the paušalni obrt because it is simplest. Here are detailed instructions on how to open an obrt.
Regardless of whether or not you decide to open a business, you are obligated to issue an invoice to your employer after the work is done.
If a company wishes to hire a freelancer, as an individual who does not have an obrt or company, then there are specific requirements that must be followed.
#1 Create a work contract
Freelancers can work independently for companies under a contract. The contract defines the work they will do, the term of the work, the amount they will be paid for the work and how they will be paid. It is supposed to be signed and stamped by the company and signed by the freelancer BEFORE work begins.
There are two types of freelance contracts:
- Autorski ugovor (Author’s contract)
- Ugovor o djelu (Service contract)
Autorski ugovor (author’s contract) is used for original intellectual work from the field of literature, science or art. This work must have an individual character, regardless of the form of expression, type, value or purpose and it has to be unique. Authors of work own the copyright to their work. Some examples are written articles, photography, and creation of music.
Here is a template for an author’s contract.
Ugovor o djelu (service contract) is used for performing a specific work like making or repairing something or performing physical or mental work. Examples are maintaining furniture or repairing a car.
Here is a template for a service contract.
#2 Pay the freelancer
At the conclusion of the work, the employer must pay the freelancer and pay the associated contributions. The payments that must be made by the employer include:
- Neto salary – Net amount that the freelancer receives on their bank account
- Pension contributions – There are two pension funds. Not everyone is registered in both pension funds. The employer must find out which funds the freelancer is registered in and make contributions accordingly.
- Taxes – This amount can vary depending on the municipality related to the freelancer’s address.
- Healthcare contributions – This amount is calculated as 7,5% of the bruto salary. Bruto is the neto salary plus pension and taxes.
You can estimate the pension, taxes and healthcare contributions using this calculator.
You can find the tax amount for the municipality here.
If you do not already have existing client relationships, the best way to find new clients is through online platforms. Freelance.hr is a great option for finding Croatian clients. It is also common for companies needing specific skilled work to post in the expat Facebook groups.
Global freelancing sites where you can find clients include:
The benefit of going with an international client through one of the above platforms is that it eliminates the government requirement of a contract and that they pay your contributions.
HOWEVER, you will still be obligated to pay income tax to the Croatian government and to pay healthcare contributions to HZZO. This will be your sole responsibility.
You’ll also be liable for paying taxes in your home country if it does not hold a double taxation treaty with Croatia. You can see the latest list of double taxation treaties here.
For example, the United States does not have a double taxation treaty with Croatia so you will need to report and pay taxes on your income in both the US and Croatia.
Technically, only people who have been granted a work and residence permit in Croatia are allowed to work on Croatian soil. This is the law regardless of whether a person is working for a Croatian company or a foreign company.
Aside from those granted a work permit, EU nationals and their spouses as well as Croatian citizens and their spouses are allowed to work in Croatia.
Everybody else cannot legally work in Croatia. That being said, many digital nomads work while in Croatia anyways as it is hard to enforce for those only working with foreign companies. This is why the Croatian government is now considering a “digital nomad visa” that would allow foreigners to live in Croatia for up to a year while working.
It is important to note that the digital nomad visa does not yet exist and there is currently no timeline for it to exist. When and if it becomes a reality, I’ll be sure to scream it from the mountain tops.
Hrvatsko društvo nezavisnih profesionalaca is a non-profit organization with the aim of creation, maintenance, and promotion of relationships between Croatian freelancers. HDZP organizes creative workshops, develop media and marketing campaigns, connects freelancers and creative agencies, and organizes panels on the topic of independent business.
You can reach HDZP using the below information:
HDNP | Hrvatsko društvo nezavisnih profesionalaca
10 000 Zagreb
Email: [email protected]