So you’ve decided to take the jump and move to East Europe. The first question is now: “Which country should I go to?” If you’re an entrepreneur or solopreneur, your business is going to have a big influence on that decision. After all, you didn’t move to pay high taxes and get caught in bureaucratic red tape, there’s plenty of that in the West.
Thanks to their low flat tax rates and cost of living, Eastern European countries are very appealing to location-independent entrepreneurs and digital nomads. Countries like Estonia, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Georgia and the like appear on many shortlists and should always be considered. But to really find the ideal country, you need to look at the specific benefits these countries offer to every type of online entrepreneur.
Since a best “anything” will always be subjective, we’ve tried to list all the benefits different Eastern countries have to offer and since not all businesses have been created equal, we’ve split them into four categories:
- Content/SEO/Affiliate Marketers
- A physical, boots on the ground business
Best country for freelancers
So long as you make less than 100k you can benefit from a 3% effective tax rate on your total revenue (that’s revenue, not profit!) which makes it ideal for entrepreneurs with low costs/expenses like freelancers. You could even get that rate down to a mere 1% by employing at least one local guy or gal to help run your business. On top of that, Romania is an EU member state, which allows your Romanian business easy access to companies in other EU member states to sell its services to.
A Slovenian normiran SP (normative sole proprietorship) allows you to deduct 80% fixed rate expenses from your revenue (the other 20% is taxed at a 20% flat rate) thus resulting in a 4% effective flat tax. It’s also an EU member which makes it easier to sell your service to companies in EU member states.
With a 10% flat tax on your actual profits for corporate and personal income, Bulgaria could be a good alternative. It’s also an EU member which makes it easier to sell your service to companies in EU member states.
Best country for Content/SEO/Affiliate Marketers
Content, SEO or Affiliate marketers are a very diverse group with a big range of expenses. Some online marketers might invest little money in ads and focus on content or SEO and might that way be close to freelancers when it comes to their recommendations. If you focus more on affiliate marketing you might actually have a proper ad budget and chase those asymmetric returns.
All of them have one thing in common, though. Online marketers are most of the time true lifestyle businesses and the people running said businesses tend to focus more than others on life/work balance. It’s why these businesses also seem to attract many digital nomads.
Not all of them want to live a perpetual traveller lifestyle, though. So we focused on the things that truly appeal to most content/SEO/affiliate marketers, which is not only ease of doing business and an entrepreneur-friendly tax system but access to nature, culture and leisure.
That’s why we hand-picked countries that combine the best of both worlds, work and play. And ended up with a not-so-common winner.
Beach, mountains, low cost of living and the lowest tax rate of the European continent (9% flat tax). Do you need anything more? Oh, and they officially use the euro so no conversion hassle. Drawbacks? Well, if you’re a rather cultured individual and need your weekly museum fix, even the capital city Podgorica might get old quickly. Italy (Bari) is only a ferry trip away, though, and Belgrade and Zagreb could make ideal day/weekend trips.
Bigger countries offer bigger cities, if big city life is more your cup of tea, you might want to consider Serbia instead, you’ll lose your frequent days at the beach, though.
We might be a bit biased here and we’re definitely off the beaten path, but we really think everyone who’s location independent should consider this Balkan gem. With its many interesting neighbours, each with their own cultural vibe, a national park next to its capital city and most of all, a very start-up friendly tax system which allows you to keep profit in your company without being taxed we see the appeal of making this country your new home. Is it perfect? No, it has no coastline which might be a dealbreaker for some. Nor is at an EU member but since you’re not that likely to do any B2B sales that’s probably not going to hold you back. Their real estate market looks a bit wonky too at first sight, if you like collecting bricks you might want to do that in neighbouring countries. But we’re all digital guys & gals, aren’t we?
Best country for Ecommerce (and dropshipping)
As an E-commerce entrepreneur, you want payments to reach you and to access online services like Paypal, Stripe or Wise. If you’re shipping physical goods across Europe, you probably want do to so from within the Schengen zone too, so you can avoid trouble with customs or VAT.
The original disrupter takes the spot here. As an EU member and Schengen zone member, it allows for you to easily sell your products and services to the rest of the continent, which is a big plus for selling physical goods or B2B services. It also allows you to keep your profits in the company without taxing them, profits taken out are taxed at a 20% flat rate.
If you’re not selling physical products, you don’t necessarily need Schengen access right now. Bulgaria is still an EU member, has access to IBAN and is also a member of BSEC, an economic union of countries around the Black Sea, which might open up some additional opportunities. On top of that, joining Schengen has become a mere formality at this point, so the country might soon join the EU single market.
With a 10% flat tax and the option to keep profits in the company without taxation, North Macedonia combines to best of Bulgaria and Estonia, with the one caveat that it’s not an EU member, which makes it less suited for shipping out physical goods or providing B2B services.
Best country for a physical business
If you’re planning on building your startup or want to move your existing business to Eastern Europe, there’s one additional thing you’ll need to worry about, and that’s hiring people. Which gives some interesting results.
We can’t be more bullish on this country for this type of business. Not only does North Macedonia have the most interesting tax system for entrepreneurs (it has a 10% flat tax and the option to keep profit in the company without being taxed), but the country also has a highly educated and multilingual professional population. Since the cost of living in the country is relatively low, salaries are more than affordable.
We do believe the original disrupter deserves a spot in here, Estonia still allows you to keep your profits in your company without taxing them (although it taxes everything you take out at twice the rate North Macedonia does). The country also has become a tech startup favourite, if tech is where you’re going, you won’t feel lonely in Estonia. It also is an EU member with Schengen access, which might be of interest depending on the business you’re planning to start. We do have to note that the country’s economic mindset is shifting and starting to align more and more with its Scandinavian neighbours, which aren’t exactly the most entrepreneur-friendly countries.
This pearl at the Black Sea is a solid option for your business. A tax system is similar to the usual suspects (with no taxation on the profit you keep in the company) but a lower cost of living might make Georgia the best option for your new or existing business.
East Europe has something to offer to every online entrepreneur, but depending on the type of your business, some of them have that little cherry on top that convinces you to settle there. Of course, there’s more to life than business so you also want to inform yourself about all the cultural, adventure & leisure options at your disposal. We can’t recommend enough to do your research before moving there and maybe stay there for a couple of weeks just to experience the local life. We hope our website can do its part in helping you make an informed decision. Good luck!