Our picks for LLC formation services

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FAQs

What are the benefits of forming an LLC in Wisconsin?

Establishing an LLC in Wisconsin offers multiple advantages, such as personal liability protection that shields personal assets like homes and vehicles from business-related debts and legal actions. LLCs also offer tax flexibility, allowing the choice of preferred tax treatment. The LLC structure is characterized by a straightforward management structure and simpler record-keeping obligations than those typically associated with corporations.

Can an LLC in Wisconsin be owned by a single person?

In Wisconsin, an LLC can indeed be owned by just one person, termed a single-member LLC. This arrangement enables the sole proprietor to benefit from limited liability protection while retaining full authority over business decisions and operations. For taxation, a single-member LLC is treated akin to a sole proprietorship.

What is a Professional LLC, and can I form one in Wisconsin?

A Professional LLC (PLLC or PLC) caters to businesses that offer licensed professional services, including those in legal or accounting fields. The primary distinction between a PLLC and a standard LLC is that a PLLC permits licensed professionals to utilize the benefits of an LLC structure. However, these are not an option in Wisconsin.

Can my Wisconsin LLC have a DBA?

A DBA (Doing Business As), called a trade name in Wisconsin, allows a business to operate under a name different from its legal name. This is subject to the same name availability rules as your business name. You can file for a trade name through the Department of Financial Institutions; there is a $15 filing fee.

What ongoing costs should an LLC owner consider?

An LLC owner should consider ongoing costs such as annual report filing and state fees, registered agent fees, business license renewals, and taxes (income, employment, and sales taxes if applicable). Additionally, operational expenses like rent, utilities, insurance, and payroll, as well as marketing and professional services, are important to plan for to ensure smooth business operations.

How do I get a Federal Tax ID number for my Wisconsin LLC?

You can obtain a Federal Tax Identification Number (EIN) for your Wisconsin LLC by applying online through the IRS website. This service is free, and the EIN is issued immediately upon completion of the application process.

What is the difference between a domestic and foreign LLC in Wisconsin?

A domestic LLC in Wisconsin is one that is formed and operates within Wisconsin. A foreign LLC refers to an LLC that was formed in another state but is registered to do business in Wisconsin. Foreign LLCs must file for a certificate of authority to operate in Wisconsin legally.

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Starting an LLC in Wisconsin step-by-step

1. Select a name for your Wisconsin LLC

Follow naming requirements

There are two major guidelines to follow when naming your LLC in the State of Wisconsin:

  1. An LLC’s name must be distinguishable from the names of existing business entities on file with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.
  2. An LLC’s name must contain one of the following phrases or abbreviations: “Limited Liability Company”, “Limited Company”, “LLC”,  or “L.L.C.”

Need help coming up with a business name? Check out our free business name generator.

Check the availability of your LLC name

Confirm that your LLC name is available in Wisconsin using the Department of Financial Institutions Search Corporate Records Name Availability tool.

Reserve your LLC name with the Department of Financial Institutions

You can protect your chosen LLC name from being used by another Wisconsin business entity before you can file Articles of Organization by reserving it with the Department of Financial Institutions. File a Name Reservation Application with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions by postal mail (there is no online filing option) to reserve a name for up to 120 days. The filing fee is $15.

2. Designate a registered agent

As in every U.S. state, forming an LLC in Wisconsin requires the appointment of a registered agent service to handle state and federal legal documents and service of process on the business’s behalf. The registered agent must either be a state resident or business entity with a street address in Wisconsin OR if the individual or business is based out-of-state, they must have a business office in Wisconsin.

Our picks of the best registered agent services

  • Northwest Registered Agent: Starting a business requires a lot of state-mandated paperwork, which can be confusing for new business owners. Northwest offers business services that can help entrepreneurs find the right documentation, fill it out, and file it on time with the right government agency. In addition to helping you set up an LLC, Northwest has a host of additional services, like registered agent services, that new owners will find useful too.
  • ZenBusiness: There’s no need to stress about filing paperwork when you work with ZenBusiness. This company offers a great variety of LLC services, the focus of which is to ensure your business is set up correctly with the proper paperwork filled out and delivered to the right branch of your state government. Of course, ZenBusiness does charge for their services, but customers say they get the most bang for their buck.
  • Harbor Compliance is a great fit for organizations that register in multiple states and for those who don’t want to pay excessive service fees. With their network and electronic document delivery, they help ensure your business never misses a legal notification.

FAQs

What are the benefits of forming an LLC in Wisconsin?

Establishing an LLC in Wisconsin offers multiple advantages, such as personal liability protection that shields personal assets like homes and vehicles from business-related debts and legal actions. LLCs also offer tax flexibility, allowing the choice of preferred tax treatment. The LLC structure is characterized by a straightforward management structure and simpler record-keeping obligations than those typically associated with corporations.

Can an LLC in Wisconsin be owned by a single person?

In Wisconsin, an LLC can indeed be owned by just one person, termed a single-member LLC. This arrangement enables the sole proprietor to benefit from limited liability protection while retaining full authority over business decisions and operations. For taxation, a single-member LLC is treated akin to a sole proprietorship.

What is a Professional LLC, and can I form one in Wisconsin?

A Professional LLC (PLLC or PLC) caters to businesses that offer licensed professional services, including those in legal or accounting fields. The primary distinction between a PLLC and a standard LLC is that a PLLC permits licensed professionals to utilize the benefits of an LLC structure. However, these are not an option in Wisconsin.

Can my Wisconsin LLC have a DBA?

A DBA (Doing Business As), called a trade name in Wisconsin, allows a business to operate under a name different from its legal name. This is subject to the same name availability rules as your business name. You can file for a trade name through the Department of Financial Institutions; there is a $15 filing fee.

What ongoing costs should an LLC owner consider?

An LLC owner should consider ongoing costs such as annual report filing and state fees, registered agent fees, business license renewals, and taxes (income, employment, and sales taxes if applicable). Additionally, operational expenses like rent, utilities, insurance, and payroll, as well as marketing and professional services, are important to plan for to ensure smooth business operations.

How do I get a Federal Tax ID number for my Wisconsin LLC?

You can obtain a Federal Tax Identification Number (EIN) for your Wisconsin LLC by applying online through the IRS website. This service is free, and the EIN is issued immediately upon completion of the application process.

What is the difference between a domestic and foreign LLC in Wisconsin?

A domestic LLC in Wisconsin is one that is formed and operates within Wisconsin. A foreign LLC refers to an LLC that was formed in another state but is registered to do business in Wisconsin. Foreign LLCs must file for a certificate of authority to operate in Wisconsin legally.

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3. File Articles of Organization

An LLC is formed in Wisconsin through the filing of Articles of Organization – Limited Liability Company with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

The Articles of Organization must provide the following information:

  • LLC’s name, email address, and phone number
  • Registered agent name and mailing address
  • LLC organizers’ names and addresses
  • Whether the LLC is member-managed or manager-managed
  • The name of the individual who drafted the articles
  • The signature of an LLC organizer

You can file the articles online or by postal mail. The filing fee is $130 for online filings and $170 for mail filings.

4. Create an operating agreement

Although not a legally mandated step for forming an LLC in Wisconsin, drafting a comprehensive LLC operating agreement is strongly recommended for all nascent limited liability companies.

The operating agreement should do the following:

  1. Describe the LLC’s business structure
  2. Establish the individual responsibilities and obligations of LLC members
  3. Detail how the LLC will be run

Without an operating agreement clarifying the specific duties of its members, an LLC may face significant legal and operational difficulties.

5. Obtain an IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN) 

All newly formed LLCs in the United States must acquire an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (with the exception of single-member LLCs). The nine-digit EIN is like a social security number for a business and is necessary to pay income tax, file tax returns, open business bank accounts, and perform many other important functions.

You can apply for an EIN online on the IRS website without paying a filing fee.

6. Fulfill your legal obligations

Once an LLC is registered, its members must devote attention to fulfilling legal requirements that apply for the duration of the company’s existence.

File annual reports

All LLCs doing business in Wisconsin–including foreign LLCs–must file an annual report with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. The annual report is due in the quarter of the year that includes the anniversary month of the LLC’s legal organization in the state (for example, if an LLC was formed on February 16, it must file its annual report during Q1 each year).

The annual report must be filed online. The filing fee is $25 for an LLC formed in Wisconsin and $80 for a foreign LLC doing business in the state.

Obtain business licenses and permits

The state of Wisconsin does not require or issue a general business operating license that LLCs need to have. However, you may need a range of specialty licenses or localized licenses depending on the type of business you own and where it is located.

  • Business tax license: Most LLCs will need to obtain one state-wide license, the Business Tax Registration, which allows businesses to register for any necessary tax permits. This includes the seller’s permit for collecting state sales taxes. This is especially important for LLCs that will be selling goods or services subject to sales tax. Applying for this license is a straightforward process that can be done online through the Wisconsin Department of Revenue’s website, along with a fee of $20 for the first two years and $10 every two years from there.
  • Occupational licenses: Depending on the type of business you operate in Wisconsin, you may require additional permits or licenses. For example, businesses in the food service or construction industries frequently have unique licensing demands.
  • Local licenses: Regulations can vary from one town or city to another within Wisconsin, potentially requiring local business licenses or adherence to specific regulations. For example, the city of Madison does not have a general business license, but nearly every kind of business has a specific license it must obtain to operate there.

To identify the relevant licenses for your business, refer to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and Department of Safety and Professional Services.  For information on local licensing requirements, contact a city or county clerk in the area where your LLC is based.

Understand state taxes

In Wisconsin, LLCs are designated as pass-through entities for tax purposes. This classification implies that LLCs themselves are not directly taxed at the state income tax level. Rather, the LLC’s profits and losses are transferred to the individual members, who then declare this income on their personal tax returns.

  • Wisconsin tax rates: LLC members are taxed according to Wisconsin’s personal income tax rates, which range from 3.54% to 7.56%, depending on their filing status and total annual income.
  • Self-employment taxes: At the federal level, all self-employed individuals, including LLC members, are responsible for paying self-employment taxes to the IRS, which cover Social Security and Medicare contributions. These taxes are based on the net earnings from self-employment, usually representing 15.3% of their share of all LLC profits.
  • LLCs with employees: Various employer tax obligations must be managed. These responsibilities include withholding income taxes from employees’ wages, paying state unemployment insurance taxes, and contributing to workers’ compensation insurance. There may be additional requirements depending on the specific circumstances of the business.
  • Register with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue: LLCs active in Wisconsin (including foreign LLCs) are required to register with the Department of Revenue to satisfy state tax requirements. This includes LLCs that collect sales tax on retail goods and LLCs that have employees.

The Wisconsin DOR allows for registration to be completed on their website.

Understand BOI reporting

The Beneficial Ownership Information (BOI) Reporting Rules, initiated by the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA), came into effect in early 2024.

What it is: These regulations mandate that certain businesses, including corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), and other similar entities that are formed or registered to conduct business in the United States, must submit details about their beneficial owners to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

Filing deadlines:

The rules set different company deadlines based on when they were established or registered.

  • Entities in existence before the start of 2024 have until the end of the calendar year to submit their initial report.
  • Those established or registered after the start of 2024 have 90 days from their LLC formation notice to file.
  • Businesses registering in 2025 have 30 days to submit their report.

The submission process is digital via FinCEN’s dedicated BOI reporting system.

Learn more about BOI Reporting.

LegalZoom can help you file a compliant and stress-free BOI Report for only $149.

FAQs

What are the benefits of forming an LLC in Wisconsin?

Establishing an LLC in Wisconsin offers multiple advantages, such as personal liability protection that shields personal assets like homes and vehicles from business-related debts and legal actions. LLCs also offer tax flexibility, allowing the choice of preferred tax treatment. The LLC structure is characterized by a straightforward management structure and simpler record-keeping obligations than those typically associated with corporations.

Can an LLC in Wisconsin be owned by a single person?

In Wisconsin, an LLC can indeed be owned by just one person, termed a single-member LLC. This arrangement enables the sole proprietor to benefit from limited liability protection while retaining full authority over business decisions and operations. For taxation, a single-member LLC is treated akin to a sole proprietorship.

What is a Professional LLC, and can I form one in Wisconsin?

A Professional LLC (PLLC or PLC) caters to businesses that offer licensed professional services, including those in legal or accounting fields. The primary distinction between a PLLC and a standard LLC is that a PLLC permits licensed professionals to utilize the benefits of an LLC structure. However, these are not an option in Wisconsin.

Can my Wisconsin LLC have a DBA?

A DBA (Doing Business As), called a trade name in Wisconsin, allows a business to operate under a name different from its legal name. This is subject to the same name availability rules as your business name. You can file for a trade name through the Department of Financial Institutions; there is a $15 filing fee.

What ongoing costs should an LLC owner consider?

An LLC owner should consider ongoing costs such as annual report filing and state fees, registered agent fees, business license renewals, and taxes (income, employment, and sales taxes if applicable). Additionally, operational expenses like rent, utilities, insurance, and payroll, as well as marketing and professional services, are important to plan for to ensure smooth business operations.

How do I get a Federal Tax ID number for my Wisconsin LLC?

You can obtain a Federal Tax Identification Number (EIN) for your Wisconsin LLC by applying online through the IRS website. This service is free, and the EIN is issued immediately upon completion of the application process.

What is the difference between a domestic and foreign LLC in Wisconsin?

A domestic LLC in Wisconsin is one that is formed and operates within Wisconsin. A foreign LLC refers to an LLC that was formed in another state but is registered to do business in Wisconsin. Foreign LLCs must file for a certificate of authority to operate in Wisconsin legally.

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Post LLC tasks

Set up business bank accounts

Although not legally required, it is essential for LLCs to maintain a business bank account. This account helps to establish a clear distinction between personal and business finances, which is vital for preserving the limited liability benefits of the LLC business structure.

This clear financial separation aids in straightforward accounting, easier tax preparation, and efficient management of business expenditures. Additionally, having a business bank account enhances the professionalism of interactions with clients and vendors.

For LLCs and other business owners seeking the right banking solutions, Found, Relay, and Mercury stand out as excellent options. These platforms are specifically tailored to meet the needs of small businesses, offering features such as online banking, low fees, and tools that streamline financial management.

Obtain a Certificate of Good Standing

Sometimes called a Certificate of Good Standing, a Certificate of Status is Wisconsin’s equivalent.

  • What it is: The Certificate of Status is a legal document that verifies an LLC’s legitimacy and good standing with the state of Wisconsin. It confirms that a business is authorized to conduct business in Wisconsin, is up to date on all annual reports, and has paid any owed taxes. This is not a required document, but it can be helpful when applying for bank accounts or loans or registering to do business in other states.
  • How to get it: To obtain this certificate, businesses must go through the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions’ office. There is a $10 cost.

Build a website 

Regardless of the type of business you’re launching, establishing a website is an essential early step. A website not only makes it easy for potential customers and partners to discover your business but also allows you to effectively display your products or services. If you’re unsure how to begin creating a website, here are some straightforward steps to follow:

  1. Search for and purchase a domain name that matches your business’s name or mission.
  2. Sign up for web hosting.
  3. Pick a web builder like Domain.com or GoDaddy to create a site – no coding experience necessary.
  4. Customize your website to appeal to your target audience by adding relevant pages, content, and images. If you’re selling goods, add an e-commerce section to your site.
  5. Review, test, and publish your site.

Costs to set up an LLC in Wisconsin

While LLCs are known as a more cost-effective option than corporations, there are still a number of costs to consider when you are starting your business.

  • Incorporation fees: The most universal cost when setting up an LLC is the formation paperwork, known as Wisconsin Articles of Organization or Form 502. These are filed with the Wisconsin Secretary of State and cost $170 on paper, or $130 online for domestic LLCs; for a foreign LLC, the cost is $100. You can also expedite the service for an additional $25.
  • Annual Report filing fee: All LLCS registered in Wisconsin must file yearly reports through the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). This can be done online for a $25 annual report fee, though the DFI will also send physical forms to your registered agent.
  • Registered agent services fees: While any professional services are optional, these services receive mail and service of process on your behalf to meet all obligations. Costs start at around $50 per year and can be as high as $400, depending on your exact needs.

Foreign LLC registration

An LLC formed in a state other than Wisconsin intending to do business in the state must register with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

Complete these steps to do business in Wisconsin as a foreign LLC:

  1. Comply with Wisconsin LLC naming rules and confirm that the LLC’s name is available using the Search Corporate Records Name Availability tool. If your original LLC name is taken, you must adopt a new name for use in Wisconsin and file a Name Registration Application-Foreign Corporation or Foreign Limited Liability Company by mail (no online filing). There is a $50 filing fee. Foreign LLCs must file a new name registration application (renewal application) every year between October 1 and December 31.
  2. Appoint a Wisconsin registered agent.
  3. File a Foreign Limited Liability Company Certificate of Registration Application with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions online (no mail filing). The filing fee is $100.

FAQs

What are the benefits of forming an LLC in Wisconsin?

Establishing an LLC in Wisconsin offers multiple advantages, such as personal liability protection that shields personal assets like homes and vehicles from business-related debts and legal actions. LLCs also offer tax flexibility, allowing the choice of preferred tax treatment. The LLC structure is characterized by a straightforward management structure and simpler record-keeping obligations than those typically associated with corporations.

Can an LLC in Wisconsin be owned by a single person?

In Wisconsin, an LLC can indeed be owned by just one person, termed a single-member LLC. This arrangement enables the sole proprietor to benefit from limited liability protection while retaining full authority over business decisions and operations. For taxation, a single-member LLC is treated akin to a sole proprietorship.

What is a Professional LLC, and can I form one in Wisconsin?

A Professional LLC (PLLC or PLC) caters to businesses that offer licensed professional services, including those in legal or accounting fields. The primary distinction between a PLLC and a standard LLC is that a PLLC permits licensed professionals to utilize the benefits of an LLC structure. However, these are not an option in Wisconsin.

Can my Wisconsin LLC have a DBA?

A DBA (Doing Business As), called a trade name in Wisconsin, allows a business to operate under a name different from its legal name. This is subject to the same name availability rules as your business name. You can file for a trade name through the Department of Financial Institutions; there is a $15 filing fee.

What ongoing costs should an LLC owner consider?

An LLC owner should consider ongoing costs such as annual report filing and state fees, registered agent fees, business license renewals, and taxes (income, employment, and sales taxes if applicable). Additionally, operational expenses like rent, utilities, insurance, and payroll, as well as marketing and professional services, are important to plan for to ensure smooth business operations.

How do I get a Federal Tax ID number for my Wisconsin LLC?

You can obtain a Federal Tax Identification Number (EIN) for your Wisconsin LLC by applying online through the IRS website. This service is free, and the EIN is issued immediately upon completion of the application process.

What is the difference between a domestic and foreign LLC in Wisconsin?

A domestic LLC in Wisconsin is one that is formed and operates within Wisconsin. A foreign LLC refers to an LLC that was formed in another state but is registered to do business in Wisconsin. Foreign LLCs must file for a certificate of authority to operate in Wisconsin legally.

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