Last Updated: June 3, 2024, 9:08 am by TRUiC Team

How to Start a Corporation in Wisconsin

Starting a corporation doesn’t need to be difficult.

To start your Wisconsin corporation, you will need to file the Articles of Incorporation with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, find a suitable registered agent, draft your bylaws, and appoint your initial directors.

We’ll show you how to start a corporation in Wisconsin yourself.

Or, you can use a professional service:

four point six out of five Northwest ($29 + state fee)

Learn how to start a corporation in Wisconsin

It's Easy to Incorporate in Wisconsin

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Step 1Name Your Wisconsin Corporation
Step 2Choose a Registered Agent
Step 3Hold an Organizational Meeting
Step 4File the Articles of Incorporation
Step 5Get an EIN

For a look at corporation formation in every state, check out our other How to Start a Corporation guides.

Not sure if a corporation is right for you? Check out our LLC vs. Corporation guide to help you make your decision.

Step 1: Name Your Wisconsin Corporation

Choosing a business name is the first step in starting a corporation. 

1. Wisconsin naming guidelines:

Your corporation’s name:

  • Must contain the word “incorporated”, “company”, “corporation”, or any such abbreviation (e.g., “corp”, “inc”, “co”, etc.), or the equivalent word or abbreviation in another language. 
  • Cannot contain language that states or implies that the corporation was organized for a purpose other than what's permitted by its articles of incorporation and s. 181.0301.
  • Must be distinguishable from all domestic corporations, as well as from all foreign corporations that are authorized to transact business in Wisconsin. 
  • Must be distinguishable from a limited liability company or a limited liability partnership that has been formed or registered in Wisconsin. 
  • Must not contain prohibited or restricted words (e.g., the word insurance cannot be included unless the name makes it clear that the corporation is not an insurance company.).

Read the Wisconsin state statute regarding corporation naming guidelines for more information.

 2. Is my corporation name available in Wisconsin?

Your Wisconsin corporation name must be unique and distinguishable from other business names in Wisconsin. Use the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions Corporate Record Search to determine if your desired business name is available.

3. Is the URL available?

Before registering your Wisconsin corporation, you’ll need to check if a good URL is available for your business name. It’s important to secure your URL right away.

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Step 2: Choose a Wisconsin Registered Agent

You must appoint a Wisconsin registered agent when registering your corporation with the Department of Financial Institutions.

A registered agent is an individual or entity appointed to receive service of process, government correspondence, and compliance documents on behalf of a business.

Your registered agent can be an individual, business entity, or professional registered agent service. Any member of the corporation or individual can serve as your Wisconsin registered agent as long as the person:

  • is 18 years or older
  • has a physical address in the state where business activity is conducted
  • is available (in person) during normal business hours
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Recommended: Northwest offers one year of free registered agent services with their corporation formation package ($29 + State Fees).

Step 3: Hold an Organizational Meeting

Before you officially file the Articles of Incorporation in Step 4, you will need to hold an organizational meeting to complete the following tasks:

  • Fill out and execute the Articles of Incorporation
  • Create and approve bylaws
  • Select your initial director(s)
  • Determine your share structure
  • Execute an Incorporator’s Statement

Create and Approve Corporate Bylaws

Bylaws are the rules that determine how your organization will be governed and run. For detailed instructions on creating your bylaws, read our corporate bylaws guide.

Appoint Initial Directors

You must appoint at least one director who will oversee your Wisconsin corporation until the first shareholder meeting.

A corporate director is in charge of the adoption, amendment, and repeal of operational bylaws as well as the election, supervision, and removal of officers.

After forming the corporation, the incorporator(s) — or initial director(s), if named on the formation documents — should call an organizational meeting. During this initial meeting, either the incorporator(s) will elect the board of directors or the initial director(s) will appoint the officers. 

Choose a Share Structure and Strategy

A share of stock is the unit of ownership of a corporation. Each share of stock represents a percentage of ownership of the company. For example, if a corporation issues one share of stock the shareholder (stock owner) would then own 100% of the corporation. 

Shares can be structured into classes. Each class, termed a share class, holds different rights and privileges. You can have multiple classes and each class can hold any number of shares.

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Authorized Shares: the number of shares the corporation is allowed to issue.
Issued Shares: the total number of shares actually issued to shareholders.
Share Class: a group of shares that has a unique set of rights and privileges.

The Articles of Incorporation form issued by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions can only be used to start a corporation with one share class. If the corporation needs a multiple share class structure, you must include an additional provision.

Create and Execute an Incorporator’s Statement

The incorporator(s) should sign an Incorporator’s Statement with complete names and addresses of each initial director and store it in the corporate records book. 

This document names the initial director(s) that will serve until the board of directors is elected during the first shareholder meeting. It should be stored with the rest of your corporate records.

Step 4: File the Wisconsin Articles of Incorporation

You will need to file the Wisconsin Articles of Incorporation to set up a corporation in Wisconsin. You may file it by mail or online with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. The filing cost is $100

This document will cover the basics of your corporation, including:

  • Corporate name
  • Corporate registered agent name and street address
  • The number of authorized shares the corporation is allowed to issue
  • Incorporator(s) name(s) and address(es)

The Articles of Incorporation form issued by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions can only be used to start a corporation with one share class. If the corporation needs a multiple share class structure, you must include an additional provision.

File the Wisconsin Articles of Incorporation

Option 1: File Online With Wisconsin’s Department of Financial Institutions

File Online

- OR -

Option 2: File the Articles of Incorporation by Mail

Download Form

Filing Cost: $100

Mailing Address:
State of WI – Dept. of Financial Institutions
P.O. Box 93348
Milwaukee, WI 53293-0348

Step 5: Get an EIN for Your Wisconsin Corporation

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is used by the federal government to identify a business entity. It is essentially a Social Security number for the company. An EIN is needed:

  • To open a bank account for the company
  • For federal and state tax purposes
  • To hire employees

Get an EIN

Option 1: Request an EIN from the IRS

Apply Online

- OR -

Option 2: Apply for an EIN by Mail or Fax

Download Form

Mail to:
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999

Fax: (855) 641-6935

Fee: Free

Running Your Corporation

It is very important to adhere to the formalities of running a corporation. Read our How to Run a Corporation guide to learn more.

Taxes, Annual Reports, & Licensing

Wisconsin State Corporation Tax Requirements

Depending on the nature of your business, you may be required to register for one or more forms of state tax:

Wisconsin Sales Tax

If you’re selling a product, you’ll typically need to register for a seller's permit through the Wisconsin One Stop website. This allows a business to collect sales tax.

Wisconsin Employer Taxes

If you hire employees, you will need to register for Wisconsin employer taxes through the Wisconsin One Stop website. This includes Employee Withholding Tax, Unemployment Insurance Tax, and Disability Insurance.

Wisconsin Corporation Licenses and Permits

To operate your corporation in Wisconsin, you must comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. For example, restaurants likely need health permits, building permits, signage permits, etc.

Learn more in our Wisconsin Business License guide.

File the Wisconsin Corporate Annual Report

Wisconsin corporations must file an annual report with the Department of Financial Institutions. It must be filed by the end of the anniversary quarter of your corporation’s incorporation. You can file the report online. The filing fee is $25.

Corporate Dissolution & Wisconsin Good Standing

How to Get a Wisconsin Certificate of Good Standing

A Certificate of Good Standing, known in Wisconsin as a Certificate of Status, verifies that your Wisconsin corporation was legally formed and has been properly maintained.

You may order a Certificate of Status in Wisconsin by mail or online. To order online, search for your corporation on the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions website and then follow the prompts. To file by mail, submit the Certificate of Status order form. The fee is $10.

Order a Certificate of Status

Option 1: Request a Certificate From the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions

Request Online

- OR -

Option 2: Request a Certificate by Mail

Download Form

Fee: $10

Mailing Address:
Department of Financial Institutions
P.O. Box 93348
Milwaukee, WI 53293-0348

How to Dissolve a Corporation in Wisconsin

If at any point you would like to permanently stop doing business, or close your business, it is important to officially dissolve your corporation. Failure to do so in a timely fashion can result in tax liabilities, penalties, or even legal trouble.

There are five main steps to close your Wisconsin corporation:

  • Stop doing business
  • Hold a board meeting, vote on dissolution, and record the meeting in the corporation minutes
  • File the Articles of Dissolution with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
  • Close your federal and state business tax accounts with the IRS and Wisconsin Department of Revenue
  • Close your business bank accounts

File Dissolution Documents

You must file Articles of Dissolution to dissolve your Wisconsin corporation. Wisconsin provides the Articles of Dissolution (Form 10) and instructions for this purpose or you may draft your own as long as it meets the legal requirements. You may also dissolve your corporation online. The filing fee is $20.

Is a Corporation Right For You?

An LLC provides limited liability protection without corporate complexity.
Find out if an LLC is the right structure for you.

LLC vs. Corporation | Form an LLC

Steps After Forming a Corporation

After forming a corporation, you’ll want to protect your personal and business assets and build credit.

Taking these steps will set your business up for success:

Form a Corporation with Northwest for $29 Plus State Fees

Wisconsin Corporation FAQ

In order to start a corporation in Wisconsin, you will need to file your Articles of Incorporation with Wisconsin’s Department of Financial Institutions.  

The filing fee for this is $100, although an expedited service can also be offered for an additional $25. 

For more information, see our How to Start a Corporation in Wisconsin article. 

An LLC is a pass-through entity, meaning that it’s taxed in a similar way to a general partnership and sole proprietorship. A C corporation, on the other hand, is required to pay corporation taxes.

Corporations are also subject to significant federal scrutiny, and are required to satisfy a variety of different procedures when it comes to operating legitimately. 

For more information, we recommend having a look at our What is a Corporation article.   

According to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions’ website, it generally takes up to five business days after they’ve received your Articles of Incorporation in order for your corporation to be formed.

Having said that, delays can occur during periods of high volume filing (e.g., end of calendar and fiscal years, etc.), and so a one day expedited service is offered for an additional $25 fee.

It doesn’t have to be. Having said that, starting a Wisconsin corporation is a lot more time consuming than starting an LLC, sole proprietorship, or general partnership. 

This is because you will need to hold an organizational meeting, as well as comply with a plethora of management-related requirements. 

Even so, starting a corporation can definitely be beneficial. See our Why Investors and Venture Capitalists Like C Corporations for more information. 

Starting a corporation is likely to be a bit more challenging than starting an LLC due to the prolific procedural requirements that need to be completed. 

Nonetheless, maintaining a corporation is definitely more difficult, although this can also depend on the tax status that the LLC elects (e.g., s corp, etc.). 

We recommend checking out our S Corp vs C Corp vs LLC article for more information. 

Wisconsin Corporation Quick Links