Press Release 4 minute read

Five European countries ranked in top 10 most complex places in world for doing business

05 July 2022

TMF Group, a leading provider of compliance and administrative services, has today launched the ninth edition of its Global Business Complexity Index (GBCI).

The comprehensive report analyses 77 jurisdictions, locations which account for 92% of the world’s total GDP and 95% of net global FDI flows. It compares 292 annually tracked indicators, offering data on key aspects of doing business, including rules, regulations, tax rates, incorporation timelines, payroll and benefits, penalties and other compliance factors.

France retains it’s 2021 position as the second most complex jurisdiction for setting up and running a business globally. It is followed by Greece (6th vs 13th in 2021), Turkey (7th vs 5th), Italy (8th vs 15th) and Poland, which stays in tenth position.

Over the past 12 months, complexity in these countries has increased because of the measures central governments took to help businesses during Covid-19. This created some additional level of complexity: in Greece, for instance, the decision to digitalise has transferred bureaucratic hurdles to the digital sphere, rather than easing the processes. Italy, meanwhile, took a very protective approach towards workers: it was not possible to dismiss employees either at private or state level during the pandemic.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are five other European countries characterised by a very low degree of complexity: United Kingdom, Norway, Jersey, and Denmark. These jurisdictions can count on business-friendly political environments, highly skilled workforces used to working for international organisations and with a high degree of digital literacy. The digitalisation process played a pivotal role for Jersey, ranked as the 45th most complex country in 2021 and now 72nd. Thanks to an increased focus on improving digital channels, it’s now easier to contact the relevant regulatory bodies and government organisations and businesses can incorporate in as little as two hours.

TMF Group Head of EMEA Frank Welman said: “Our Global Business Complexity Index shows how operating across some European countries can be challenging. Some jurisdictions with huge investment potential have reacted to Covid-19 by adopting a higher degree of flexibility to help businesses navigating during uncertain times. The same countries, where the digital infrastructure was already in place, were able to push the process even further to overcome the difficulties. Other countries adopted a less relaxed approach, and this explains their positions at the top of the complexity’s hierarchy. In the future, we hope to see more countries investing in digitalisation and engineering processes to ease the burden for business and to encourage the flow of investment”.

In addition to analysing 77 locations, the report identifies key themes shaping the global business landscape and regulatory environment.

Emerging from Covid-19

The study reveals that some of the measures put in place such as tax exemptions, increasing employee rights and the acceleration of digital reporting are in the process of being reversed to pre-pandemic status.

Property tax payments on business premises reduced in frequency during the peak of the crisis. However, in 2022, 14% of jurisdictions require some or all companies to pay the tax at least every three months, compared to 9% of jurisdictions in 2021.

On the HR (human resources) and payroll side, the trend for remote working has increased, to the point where it’s legal or standard in most industries in 31% of jurisdictions, compared to 10% of 2020.

Compliance and the flow of FDI

The report highlights a simultaneous growth in both complexity and the flow of FDI. Experts in a larger percentage of jurisdictions (34% in 2022 vs 28% in 2021) are predicting an increase in FDI over the next five years, reflecting post-pandemic optimism at investment opportunities.

Technology continues to play a role in both increasing and curtailing complexity. Digital literacy is an important factor, with 16% of jurisdictions automatically notifying all the relevant authorities following incorporation.

ESG on the rise

ESG is becoming more of a focus for business globally. However, despite the increase in interest, legal enforcement of ESG practices is only in place for around 50% of the jurisdictions. This is especially the case outside the EU, demonstrating a lack of international alignment. The impact of ESG is therefore difficult to measure.

ESG is on the rise globally, with jurisdictions such as France leading the way for many years. However, many governments are at an early stage of their engagement by starting to look at adopting environmental initiatives and guidelines.

Top and bottom ten (1= most complex, 77= least complex)

 1. Brazil  68. United Kingdom
 2. France  69. Norway
 3. Peru   70. New Zealand
 4. Mexico  71. United States
 5. Colombia  72. Jersey
 6. Greece  73. British Virgin Islands
 7. Turkey  74. Hong Kong
 8. Italy  75. Denmark
 9. Bolivia  76. Curaçao
 10. Poland  77. Cayman Islands

Media Contacts:

Giampaolo Arghittu, Global External Communications Manager,
T: +39 334 947 95 84


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