Serbian Chamber of Commerce: Mandatory membership for all companies

The beginning of 2017 brings a new impost for companies in Serbia. With the implementation of the Law on Chambers of Commerce, all companies will have to become members of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce. Those companies that left the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (SCC) in the last four years will have to re-join. Nobody knows how high the membership fee is going to be, but, judging by the current price list, companies will have to set aside 0.19% of the gross salary of each of their employees. Small companies, i.e. those with fewer than 10 employees, will pay a fixed amount of 800 Dinars a month.

When the 2013 law stipulated that membership in the SCC was not mandatory, the Chamber’s revenue started to crumble. In 2013, the SCC collected around 722 million Dinars from membership fees alone, while this amount stood at 624 million Dinars last year.

– If the current price list applies to 2017, the projected amount collected from membership fees will be 2.15 billion Dinars, or around 17 million EUR – says Programme Director at the Libek Economic Research Unit, Mihailo Galić. He adds that the membership is yet another form of parafiscal charge. The current membership fee is 800 Dinars a month providing that the company has fewer than 10 employees and the annual revenue of up to 20 million Dinars. All other companies have to set aside 0.19% of the gross salary of each employee a month.

A group of business people assembled in the Association for Protection of Constitutionality and Legality say that the Law on Chambers of Commerce stipulating compulsory membership is unconstitutional. Other business people say that constitutionality is not the key issue here.

– There are countries where membership in the chamber is mandatory, and there are those where it is not. This is not a question of constitutionality – says Director of Gomex, Goran Kovacevic. – It is important, however, to ascertain the SCC’s obligations so that we know how is our money being spent. The Chamber has been under a very heavy political influence instead of being solely a service provider to companies. If the Chamber is doing its job in a professional manner, than we should pay for membership.

President of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, Milan Knežević says that he already urged his peers to boycott the law until the Constitutional Court has its say.

“I work in a textile industry and I should join textile industry cluster. What possible connection do I have with IT? These are not business interests. Why are they forcing us to join the Chamber when it is run by people who know nothing about business?”, Knežević objects.

(Vecernje Novosti, 03.10.2016)

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