How to Start an LLC in Wisconsin (2024 Guide)
Wondering how to start an LLC in Wisconsin? We’ve got you covered.
To get started, you'll need to pick a suitable business name, choose a registered agent, and file your Articles of Organization with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions ($131-$170 processing fee).
You can do this independently, consult with a business attorney for specialized legal guidance, or join the other 65% of our readers and hire a specialized Wisconsin LLC formation service (recommended).
Northwest ($29 + State Fees)
LegalZoom ($249 + State Fees)
How to Form an LLC in Wisconsin in 6 Steps
In order to form your LLC in Wisconsin, there are certain steps you’ll need to complete:
- Name Your Wisconsin LLC
- Choose an Initial Registered Agent
- File Your LLC Articles of Organization
- Create an LLC Operating Agreement
- Obtain an EIN
- File a Beneficial Ownership Information Report
Step 1: Name Your Wisconsin LLC
Before you get started, you will need to pick a suitable name for your Wisconsin LLC.
This will need to comply with all applicable naming requirements under Wisconsin law and be both succinct and memorable, as this will make it easily searchable by your potential clients.
1. Important Naming Guidelines for Wisconsin LLCs:
- Your name must include the phrase “limited liability company,” “limited company,” or the abbreviations “LLC” or “LC.”
- Your name cannot include words that contain language stating or implying that it was organized to operate in certain industries without prior approval (e.g., Bank, Law Firm, etc.).
- Your name must be distinguishable from all other entities registered with the Department of Financial Institutions, as well as with all names that have been reserved.
- Your name cannot include words that could create a false implication of an affiliation with a state or federal government body (e.g., State, Division, FBI, etc.).
For a full list of these rules, we recommend having a look at Wisconsin’s official LLC naming guidelines.
2. Is the name available in Wisconsin?
To check whether your desired name has already been taken by another business entity in Wisconsin, you can perform a Taxable Entity Search on the State of Wisconsin's Business Entity Search.
If you’re not going to start your LLC right away, it might be a good idea to consider reserving your name for up to 120 days. You can do this by filing a Name Reservation Application and paying the $15 filing fee.
For more information, have a look at our Wisconsin LLC Name Search guide.
3. Is the URL available?
We recommend that you check online to see if your business name is available as a web domain. Even if you don't plan to make a business website right away, this is an extremely important step as it will prevent others from acquiring it, potentially saving you both time and money in the long term.
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Once you have verified your name is available, you may now select a professional service to complete the LLC formation process for you.
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FAQ: Naming a Wisconsin LLC
LLC is short for “limited liability company.” It is a simple business structure that offers more flexibility than a traditional corporation while still providing legal protection for your personal assets. Read our What is a Limited Liability Company guide for more information.
Or, watch our two-minute video: What is an LLC?
You must follow the Wisconsin limited liability company (LLC) naming guidelines when choosing a name for your LLC:
- Include the phrase "limited liability company" or one of its abbreviations (LLC or L.L.C.).
- Do not use words that could confuse your business with a government agency (FBI, State Department, CIA, etc.).
- Receive the proper licensing when using the words such as lawyer or doctor.
If you are having trouble coming up with a name for your LLC, use our LLC Name Generator. That will not only find a unique name for your business but an available URL to match.
Most LLCs do not need a DBA, which is called a trade name in Wisconsin. The name of the LLC can serve as your company’s brand name and you can accept checks and other payments under that name as well. However, you may wish to register a DBA if you would like to conduct business under another name.
To learn more about DBAs in your state, read our How to File a DBA guide.
Step 2: Choose an Initial Registered Agent in Wisconsin
After you find the right name for your LLC, you will need to nominate a Wisconsin registered agent. This is a necessary step in your Articles of Organization (i.e., the document used to file and register your LLC with the Secretary of State).
What is a registered agent? A registered agent is an individual or business entity responsible for receiving important legal documents on behalf of your business. You can think of your registered agent as your business’s primary point of contact with the state.
Who can be a registered agent? A registered agent can be a resident of Wisconsin or a corporation that is authorized to conduct business in the state. Examples of common registered agent choices include registered agent services, individuals within the LLC (e.g., yourself, etc.), and business attorneys.
FAQ: Nominating a Registered Agent
Yes. You can choose to act as your own registered agent, appoint a member of your LLC, work with a business attorney, or hire a professional registered agent service (recommended).
For more information, we recommend having a look at our being your own registered agent article.
Using a professional registered agent service is an affordable way to manage government filings for your LLC while protecting your privacy at the same time.
For most LLC owners, this can be a great choice in comparison to hiring a business attorney or attempting to act as their own agent, as it can save them money and ensure that they do not accidentally miss important legal documents and/or notifications.
Step 3: File the Wisconsin LLC Articles of Organization
To register your Wisconsin LLC, you'll need to file the Articles of Organization with the Department of Financial Institutions. You can do this online, by mail, or by fax.
Before filing, you will need to make sure that you complete your Articles of Organization correctly; we recommend having the following resources on hand:
- The name of your LLC
- The name, email address, and street address of your initial registered agent (keep in mind that a P.O. box or mailbox service is not acceptable for this purpose)
- The street and mailing address of your LLC’s principal office
- The names and addresses of your LLC’s organizers
- Your signature and printed name, as well as the effective date of your LLC’s formation (this can be up to 90 days following the day of filing).
- Your contact information
File the Articles of Organization
OPTION 1: File Online With the Department of Financial Institutions
- OR -
OPTION 2: File by MailDownload Form
State Filing Cost: $131 online, $170 by mail, payable to the Department of Financial Institutions (Nonrefundable)
State of WI - Dept. of Financial Institutions
P.O. Box 93348
Milwaukee, WI 53293
For help with completing the form, visit our Wisconsin Articles of Organization guide.
Note: If you're expanding your existing business to the state of Wisconsin, you'll need to register as a foreign limited liability company (LLC) instead.
FAQ: Filing Wisconsin LLC Documents
Processing after filing the Articles of Organization online is immediate. When filing via mail, it can take between five and ten business days.
Keep in mind that this can be expedited for an additional fee of $25.
An LLC is referred to as a "domestic LLC" when it conducts business in the state where it was formed. A foreign LLC must be formed when an existing LLC wishes to expand its business to another state.
Read our What Is a Foreign LLC article to learn more.
The cost of filing your Wisconsin LLC formation documents, known as the Articles of Organization, is $131 when done online ($130 + a $1 portal fee) or $170 when filed via mail. Keep in mind that your total cost can be significantly higher depending on your business’s specificities (e.g., whether you hire a business attorney, use an expedited service, etc.).
To learn more, read our guide on the cost to form a Wisconsin LLC.
Step 4: Create a Wisconsin LLC Operating Agreement
An operating agreement is not required for a Wisconsin LLC, but it's a good practice to have one.
What is an operating agreement? An operating agreement is a legal document outlining the ownership and operating procedures of an LLC.
Why are operating agreements important? A comprehensive operating agreement ensures that all business owners are on the same page and reduces the risk of future conflict.
For more information on operating agreements, read our Wisconsin LLC operating agreement guide.
FAQ: Creating a Wisconsin LLC Operating Agreement
No. The operating agreement is an internal document that you should keep on file for future reference. However, many states do legally require LLCs to have an operating agreement in place.
Step 5: Get an EIN for Your Wisconsin LLC
You can get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for free. It is used to identify a business entity and keep track of a business’s tax reporting. It is essentially a Social Security number (SSN) for the company.
Why do I need an EIN? An EIN number is required for the following:
- To open a business bank account for the company
- For federal and state tax purposes
- To hire employees for the company
Where do I get an EIN? An EIN is obtained from the IRS (free of charge) by the business owner after forming the company. This can be done online or by mail.
FOR INTERNATIONAL APPLICANTS: You do not need an SSN to get an EIN. Learn more here.
Get an EIN
Option 1: Request an EIN from the IRS
- OR -
Option 2: Apply for an EIN by Mail or Fax
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: EIN Operation
Cincinnati, OH 45999
Fax: (855) 641-6935
FAQ: Getting an EIN
A Social Security number is not required to get an EIN. You can simply fill out IRS Form SS-4 and leave section 7b blank. Then call the IRS at (267) 941-1099 to complete your application. Learn more here about applying as an international applicant.
All LLCs with employees, or any LLC with more than one member, must have an EIN. This is required by the IRS.
Learn why we recommend always getting an EIN and how to get one for free in our Do I Need an EIN for an LLC guide.
When you get an EIN, you will be informed of the different tax classification options that are available. Most LLCs elect the default tax status.
However, some LLCs can reduce their federal tax obligation by choosing the S corporation (S corp) status. To learn more, read our LLC vs. S Corp guide.
Step 6: File a Beneficial Ownership Information Report
Beginning January 2024, LLC owners will need to file a Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) Report with the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Existing LLCs can file their report any time between January 1, 2024, and January 1, 2025, while new LLCs will need to file their report within 90 days of formation.
This contains similar information to that of your Articles of Organization, such as your LLC name and member information, and can be filed online for free. Failure to file an accurate report on time can result in a $500 per day fine.
Note: There are certain filing exemptions, such as for large companies (i.e., more than 20 full-time employees), tax-exempt entities, and publicly traded companies.
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Maintain Your Wisconsin LLC
After you’ve successfully formed your LLC, there are a couple of steps you’ll need to periodically take in order to maintain it, including:
- Filing an annual report
- Sorting out your tax responsibilities
We’ve broken down how to complete each of these steps in greater detail below.
File the Annual Report
All LLCs based in Wisconsin are required to file an annual report with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions alongside a filing fee of $25. You’ll need the following information on hand before you can correctly file this report:
- Your LLC’s name
- The name and address of your registered agent
- Your LLC’s business email address
- The signature of the person filing the report
This report is typically due by the end of the quarter in which your LLC was formed and can be filed either online or by mail.
Note: Your LLC will be dissolved if it fails to file an annual report within a year of the deadline.
Sort Out Your Taxes
Regardless of where your LLC is registered, you will be required to pay certain federal taxes. This includes corporation and employer taxes (for LLCs filing as a C corporation), and federal income tax and self-employment taxes (for LLCs taxed as pass-through entities).
In addition, there are a number of different taxes you’ll be required to pay at a local and state level, which can vary depending on the nature of your business.
Below are some of the most common taxes in Wisconsin:
As an LLC in Wisconsin, there are several key statewide taxes to be aware of that may be imposed on your business’s earnings. In addition to your federal income responsibilities, these include:
- Personal Income Tax: LLCs taxed under the default structure are liable to pay this graduated income tax, which ranges between 3.54% and 7.56%, depending on the total annual income of the filer.
- Corporate Franchise Tax: LLCs that have chosen to be structured as a C Corp are liable to pay this tax, which is set at a flat rate of 7.9% on your business’s net income.
You can pay your state income taxes online through the Department of Revenue’s My Tax Account platform
Sales and Use Taxes
In Wisconsin, sales and use tax is levied at a statewide rate of 5% on the sale, lease, and rental of most tangible goods and services. On top of this, all Wisconsin counties are able to impose a maximum local sales tax rate of 1.7%, which applies in addition to the general rate applicable in the state.
Sales and use tax is almost always due by the last day of the month following the reporting period, which can be monthly, quarterly, or annually, as determined by the state. You can file online through the Department’s My Tax Account system and must submit a tax return even if no tax is due for this period.
Note: Before you can start collecting and remitting sales tax to the state, you’ll need to obtain a seller’s permit by applying through the Wisconsin One Stop Business Portal.
Steps After LLC Formation
After forming your LLC, you will need to get a business bank account and website, obtain any required business licenses, and get business insurance, among other things.
Visit our After Forming an LLC guide to learn more.