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How to Start an Wisconsin LLC in 7 Steps – 2024 Guide

How to Start an Wisconsin LLC in 7 Steps – 2024 Guide
(Last Updated On: February 26, 2024)

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Embarking on the journey of establishing your own Limited Liability Company (LLC) in the picturesque state of Wisconsin is an exciting venture that combines passion with practicality. In this concise guide, we’ll navigate the essential steps, from conceptualizing your business name to filing the necessary paperwork and unlocking the door to your entrepreneurial dreams amidst the vibrant landscapes of the Badger State. 

Let’s dive into the heart of Wisconsin’s business landscape and set the foundation for your LLC success story.

>> Get Started With ZenBusiness >>

How to Set Up an LLC in Wisconsin: Basic Steps

Step 1: Selecting a Name for Your Wisconsin LLC

The initial and pivotal phase of initiating your Wisconsin LLC involves the selection of a suitable company name. It’s imperative to opt for a name that adheres to Wisconsin’s naming criteria and is easily discoverable by prospective clients.

Adhere to naming guidelines:

  • Ensure your chosen name contains the term “limited liability company” or its abbreviations (LLC or L.L.C.).
  • Avoid incorporating words that may cause confusion between your LLC and a government agency (such as FBI, Treasury, State Department, etc.).
  • Certain restricted terms (e.g., Bank, Attorney, University) might necessitate additional documentation and the inclusion of a licensed individual, such as a doctor or lawyer, within your LLC.
  • Verify that your chosen name is distinct from any existing Wisconsin limited liability company (LLC), corporation, limited liability partnership (LLP), or limited partnership (LP).

Check name availability in Wisconsin: Conduct a thorough name search using the State of Wisconsin’s Business Entity Search to confirm that your desired name isn’t already in use.

To delve deeper into the process of searching for a Wisconsin LLC name, refer to our comprehensive guide, and explore name suggestions with the assistance of our free LLC name generator.

Confirm URL availability: It’s advisable to verify online whether your chosen business name is available as a web domain. Even if the creation of a business website isn’t an immediate plan, securing the URL in advance can prevent others from acquiring it in the future.

>> Choose Your Wisconsin LLC Name With ZenBusiness >>

Step 2: Designating a Registered Agent

One aspect of initiating an LLC in Wisconsin that often catches aspiring business owners by surprise is the necessity of appointing a registered agent for the company. This designated individual or entity serves as the point of contact for official mail from the state and legal notifications. 

It’s important to note that the registered agent isn’t required to maintain their registered office (official address) at the company’s physical place of business.

In accordance with Wisconsin state law, a registered agent for a WI LLC may be:

  • A natural person who is both a Wisconsin resident and utilizes their business office as the registered office.
  • A company organized in Wisconsin with its business office serving as the registered office.
  • A non-Wisconsin company authorized to conduct business in the state, using its business office as the registered office.

Alternatively, you have the option to engage the services of a registered agent service specializing in fulfilling the registered agent role for LLCs and corporations. These services efficiently handle the receipt of any legal documents addressed to your company and promptly notify you upon their reception.

>> Choose Your Registered Agent With ZenBusiness Today >>

Step 3: Submitting Articles of Organization

The establishment of an LLC in Wisconsin involves the submission of Articles of Organization – Limited Liability Company to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

The Articles of Organization should include the following details:

  • Name, email address, and phone number of the LLC
  • Name and mailing address of the registered agent
  • Names and addresses of LLC organizers
  • Indication of whether the LLC is member-managed or manager-managed
  • Information about the individual who drafted the articles
  • Signature of an LLC organizer

Filing can be done either online or through postal mail, with a filing fee of $130 for online submissions and $170 for mail submissions.

For Foreign LLC Registration

If an LLC established in a state other than Wisconsin wishes to conduct business in the state, it must register with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

Follow these steps to operate in Wisconsin as a foreign LLC:

  • Adhere to Wisconsin LLC naming regulations and ensure name availability using the Search Corporate Records Name Availability tool.
  • If the original LLC name is unavailable, adopt a new name for Wisconsin use and submit a Name Registration Application-Foreign Corporation or Foreign Limited Liability Company by mail (online filing not available). The filing fee is $50, and renewal applications must be filed annually between October 1 and December 31.
  • Designate a Wisconsin registered agent.
  • Submit a Foreign Limited Liability Company Certificate of Registration Application online (no mail filing) to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, with a filing fee of $100.

>> File Your Articles of Organization With ZenBusiness Now >>

Step 4: Draft an Operating Agreement

While not a mandatory requirement by the state in the process of establishing an LLC in Wisconsin, it’s highly advisable for LLC members to craft an operating agreement before officially commencing operations. An LLC operating agreement serves several crucial purposes:

  • Outlining financial expectations, including the handling of distributions
  • Documenting the managerial structure of the LLC
  • Safeguarding the limited liability status of the company
  • Defining ownership interest percentages
  • Establishing rules for buyouts and buy-sell transactions

Although the state may not mandate this step, taking it seriously is essential to prevent potential legal, financial, and operational conflicts in the future. Think of the operating agreement as a roadmap for your business, addressing both the opportunities your company seeks and the challenges it may encounter. 

Additionally, it should encompass the responsibilities, capabilities, compensation, and contributions of key officers, considering financial, operational, and resource aspects.

Supplemental elements that can be incorporated into your operating agreement involve:

  • Protocols for member meetings
  • Specification of voting rights
  • Procedures for exits and the dissolution process
  • Mechanisms for dispute resolution

>> Draft Your LLC Operating Agreement With ZenBusiness Today >>

Step 5: Obtain a Wisconsin LLC EIN

Acquiring an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS is a free and essential step. Functioning as a business entity’s identification tool, the EIN facilitates the tracking of a company’s tax reporting and operates akin to an individual’s Social Security number (SSN).

Why is an EIN necessary? An EIN is vital for the following purposes:

  • Opening a business bank account for the company
  • Federal and state tax requirements
  • Hiring employees for the company

Where can I obtain an EIN? Business owners can secure an EIN at no cost from the IRS after the company formation process. This can be accomplished online or through mail submission.

Mail to:

Internal Revenue Service

Attn: EIN Operation

Cincinnati, OH 45999

Fax: (855) 641-6935

>> Secure Your EIN With ZenBusiness >>

Step 6: Annual Filings for Domestic and Foreign LLCs

Both LLCs operating within and outside the state boundaries are required to submit annual reports to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). Annually, the Department sends notification forms to the registered agent’s address, indicating when the filings are due. 

Rather than opting for physical filing, you have the option to complete the process online. The annual report fee stands at $25, while Foreign LLCs are subject to a $80 fee. Additional annual expenses for your LLC may include fees for services such as hiring a business to serve as your registered agent.

Rectifying Filing Errors

In the event that you discover an error after completing the LLC formation process, promptly submit Form 53, also known as the Articles of Correction. The completion of this document requires the use of black ink, and it must be accompanied by a $40 check payable to the DFI.

Secure Business Licenses and Permits

Wisconsin-based LLCs engaging in business activities may need to acquire business licenses, permits, or certifications issued by the state or local authorities, contingent upon the nature of their business and its location.

Enlist With the Wisconsin Department of Revenue

Certain LLCs conducting business in Wisconsin are obligated to register with the state’s Department of Revenue. This requirement extends to LLCs with employees and those involved in the collection of sales tax on goods and services.

Complete the registration process with the Department of Revenue either online through the Taxpayer Access Point or via mail.

>> Secure Your LLC Annual Report Now with ZenBusiness >>

Step 7: Wisconsin LLC Tax Obligations

Ensuring the continued good standing of your business involves staying current with your Wisconsin LLC taxes. Depending on your business activities, you may need to register for various forms of taxation:

Wisconsin Sales Tax

For businesses dealing with physical products, obtaining a seller’s permit through the Wisconsin Department of Revenue website is typically necessary. Wisconsin’s state sales tax stands at 5%, with most counties adding a 0.50% local sales tax—exemptions include Manitowoc, Racine, Waukesha, and Winnebago Counties.

Wisconsin Employer Taxes

If your business has employees in Wisconsin, you must register for Unemployment Insurance Tax via the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Additionally, enrollment in Employee Withholding Tax through the Wisconsin Department of Revenue is required.

Income Tax

  • State: Wisconsin’s individual income tax comprises four graduated brackets, ranging from 3.54% to 7.65%. Your LLC’s income for the tax year determines your applicable rate. State tax returns are due annually by April 18, and to calculate your tax or determine your bracket, you can visit the Wisconsin Department of Revenue website.
  • Federal: Reporting federal income tax is necessary, utilizing either Form 1065 (for multi-member LLCs) or Form 1040 Schedule C (for single-member LLCs).

Hiring Employees

If you plan to hire employees, ensure compliance by:

  • Confirming new employees’ eligibility to work in the US
  • Reporting new hires to the state
  • Providing workers’ compensation insurance
  • Withholding employee taxes
  • Displaying workplace compliance posters in visible areas of your workspace

>> Simplify Your Tax Needs With ZenBusiness >>

Wisconsin LLC Requirements Checklist

Name Compliance

The name of a Wisconsin LLC must adhere to the following criteria:

  • It should be distinct from the names of existing business entities registered with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.
  • It must incorporate one of the specified phrases or abbreviations: “Limited Liability Company,” “Limited Company,” “LLC,” or “L.L.C.”

Formation Documents and Fees

Registration Process

  • Establishing an LLC in Wisconsin involves submitting the Articles of Organization – Limited Liability Company to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.
  • Annual Reports – Mandatory for all active LLCs in Wisconsin.
  • Business Licenses and Permits – Required for specific LLCs in Wisconsin based on their business type and location.
  • Registration with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue – Necessary for certain active LLCs in Wisconsin depending on their business type.

How to Start an LLC in Wisconsin – Buyer’s Guide

What Is an LLC?

A limited liability company, or LLC, is a business entity whose ownership and control rest with its members. Unlike corporations, which necessitate oversight from a board of directors, LLC members have the autonomy to manage their company. 

Within an LLC, there can be managing members actively involved in operational decisions and non-managing members holding ownership stakes without direct involvement in day-to-day decisions. 

In Wisconsin, LLCs are categorized into two primary forms:

  • Single-member LLC: This company type has a sole owner, also referred to as an LLC member
  • Multi-member LLC: This company type has multiple owners

Is an LLC the Right Choice for You?

For entrepreneurs, choosing an LLC offers enhanced personal liability protection and tax advantages compared to sole proprietorships or partnerships. While corporations (both S corp and C corp) provide their own tax benefits and personal asset protections, they come with more organizational structure and reporting requirements. 

The LLC business structure strikes a balance for small and medium-sized business owners, offering:

  • Personal Asset Protection: LLCs shield owners from personal liability in the event of legal actions against the company, unlike partnerships and sole proprietorships. In the worst-case scenario of a lawsuit or bankruptcy, the company may face asset loss, but the personal finances of LLC owners remain protected.
  • No Double Taxation: The IRS treats LLCs as pass-through entities, with profits or losses passing through to individual owners for reporting on their personal income tax returns. This is unlike corporations that pay corporate income tax on profits before owners face personal income taxes on their salaries.
  • Different Membership Classes: LLCs can have two distinct owner types—managing members who own and operate the business and non-managing members who solely own the business without engaging in day-to-day operations.

Differences Between Wisconsin LLC Regulations and Service Corporation Regulations

In many states, entities offering professional services typically opt for the establishment of professional limited liability companies (PLLCs) rather than conventional LLCs. 

However, in Wisconsin, the legal framework allows traditional LLCs to deliver professional services and doesn’t acknowledge the creation of PLLCs. Businesses that would typically choose PLLCs in other states have the option to be constituted as “service corporations” in Wisconsin. Service corporations, akin to regular corporations, are owned by shareholders and possess the authority to issue stock.

The guidelines for establishing both single-member and multi-member Wisconsin LLCs remain consistent, regardless of whether the new business is engaged in providing professional services or not.

Dissolving Your Wisconsin LLC

Should the need arise to dissolve your LLC, you can initiate the process by submitting either Form 510 or Articles of Dissolution. The associated fee is $20, with an additional $25 charged for expedited processing.

For any further inquiries regarding your Wisconsin LLC or the dissolution procedure, it’s advisable to directly contact the Department of Financial Institutions. 

>> Check Out ZenBusiness Now >>

LLC Formation Service in Wisconsin

Opting for online Limited Liability Company (LLC) formation services offers startups a cost-effective and convenient solution. These services provide flexible pricing packages, allowing businesses to tailor the formation process to their specific needs. Key features offered by these services include:

  • User-friendly dashboards for easy storage and retrieval of essential documents
  • Registered agent services, eliminating the need to independently locate one
  • Assistance in applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Live expert support throughout the information input phase
  • Tax preparation and advisory services

Highlighted below are some of the most commonly used LLC formation services:

ZenBusiness

ZenBusiness is an online LLC formation service designed for entrepreneurs and small business owners, offering a comprehensive suite of tools to initiate and expand their companies. Their cost-effective LLC Services packages include services such as registered agent assistance and annual report filing. ZenBusiness provides ongoing support and valuable resources to help businesses maintain compliance and achieve success.

>> Try Out ZenBusiness >>

Swyft Filings

Swyft Filings is a dedicated service for LLC formation, known for its efficiency and simplicity in the LLC creation process. They offer extensive services related to LLCs, covering everything from incorporation to compliance and support for registered agents. Swyft Filings provides tailored guidance to help businesses navigate the complexities of LLC formation and ensure compliance with state and federal regulations.

>> Start Using Swyft Filings >>

Tailor Brands

Tailor Brands is an online service specializing in branding and design, aimed at helping businesses develop a polished and cohesive brand identity. They offer various branding packages, including logo design, business card creation, and social media branding. Tailor Brands equips businesses with design tools and resources, enabling them to create and customize their branded assets according to their specific requirements.

>> Try Tailor Brands Now >>

How to Start an LLC in Wisconsin – FAQs

What Is the Cost of Establishing an LLC in Wisconsin?

The formation of a domestic LLC in Wisconsin incurs a fee of $170 for physical paperwork submissions and $130 for online submissions. Registering an out-of-state LLC in Wisconsin carries a cost of $100.

Can I Serve as My Own Registered Agent?

Yes, if you’re a Wisconsin resident aged 18 or older and have a registered office within the state. The registered office is the designated location of the registered agent, and an LLC isn’t allowed to act as its own registered agent.

What Tax Flexibility Does an LLC Offer?

LLCs have the flexibility to be taxed as sole proprietorships, partnerships, C corporations, or S corporations. This flexibility allows LLC members to optimize their tax liabilities.

Is It Possible to Establish an LLC at No Cost?

While the registration fee for an LLC varies by state, there is a fee associated with registration in every state. Therefore, when some companies claim to offer “free” LLC formation, they typically mean they will assist in completing the paperwork at no charge, but the state’s filing fee remains the responsibility of the individual.

How Long Does It Take To Create an LLC in Wisconsin?

When filing online, the LLC formation process generally takes 3-5 business days after the Department of Financial Institutions approves the articles.

>> Launch Your Wisconsin LLC With ZenBusiness Now >>

About the author

Dr. Gabriel O'Neill, Esq., a distinguished legal scholar with a business law degree and a Doctor of Juridical Science, is a leading expert in business registration and diverse business departments. Renowned for his academic excellence and practical insights, Dr. O'Neill guides businesses through legal complexities, offering invaluable expertise in compliance, corporate governance, and registration processes.

As an accomplished author, his forthcoming book is anticipated to be a comprehensive guide for navigating the dynamic intersection of law and business, providing clarity and practical wisdom for entrepreneurs and legal professionals alike. With a commitment to legal excellence, Dr. Gabriel O'Neill, Esq., is a trusted authority dedicated to empowering businesses within the ever-evolving legal landscape.