Step 1) Verify & Secure Your Brand Name
The very first thing to do is ensure that the name you’d like isn’t already taken, doesn’t contain restricted words, or is too similar to another name under the eyes of state law. Before doing anything else, use the Wisconsin Business Entity Search system to check.
Must contain the words “Limited Liability Company,” or “Limited Liability” or abbreviation “Co.,” or “L.L.C.” or “LLC.” If needed, you can also file a Name Reservation Application form with the WI Dept. of Financial Institutions that's good for 120 days.
Filing Fee: $15
Remember, this isn’t optional in Wisconsin-- it’s mandatory.
Quick Note: Before you commit 100% to a name, you may also want to check that there’s a decent URL available for your business. Use Weebly to search your options. If there’s a quality domain name for purchase, we advise buying it right away. Even if launching a business website isn’t on your radar right now, it’s going to be soon, and you might as well nail down a domain name that’ll make it easy for customers to find you!
Step 2) Appoint A Registered Agent
Every company in the state must have a Wisconsin Registered Agent to represent their brand; to receive and help to handle/process legal paperwork like all state filings & important business forms, legal notices, etc.
Basic requirements are that this agent be a WI resident/registered business entity with a non-P.O. Box physical street address and available M-F during all regular business hours.
That said, you can hire an outside professional and pay up to $160/year, or get a qualified agent free when you start an LLC through filing services like IncFile.
Step 3) File Articles Of Organization
Download and file the Articles of Organization with the WI Dept. of Financial Institutions through postal mail, or using their online filing system once you're ready to create your business entity.
This is a declarative form for the public record that discloses the basics of your brand including:
- Name and address of the LLC;
- Name and address of the LLC’s Registered Agent;
- Name and address of the LLC’s organizer(s);
- Indication whether the LLC will be managed by a manager or a member;
Filing Fee: $130 Online & $170 Mail
Step 4) Request An EIN
Once you've gotten the name taken care of, have your registered agent, and are getting ready to file your articles, the next is to get the ball rolling on obtaining an EIN, or Employer Identification Number.
This is a unique 9-digit identifier used by the state/federal government to track business activity, process taxes, allow you to legally hire employees, open business bank accounts, etc.
Almost every transaction your business engages in will require an EIN. That said, you can get one quickly, easily and free of charge by applying online through the IRS Website.
Step 5) Setup A Business Bank Account
Now that you’ve got your EIN in tow and your members’ roles all sorted, it’s time to set up a business bank account.
Even if you’re running an LLC yourself without employees, this is still a necessary step — mixing personal and professional expenses never goes well. Plus, as soon as you open your business bank account, you’ll be able to start:
- Protecting your personal assets
- Taking advantage of waived fees and other perks of business banking
- Properly managing your finances in preparation for tax time
Remember to use your EIN, not your social security number, to open your business bank account. This way it’ll be completely separate from your personal finances.
Step 6) Draft An Operating Agreement
This isn’t mandated by WI or federal law, but we think it should be for a variety of reasons.
First, it sets down on paper the managerial/financial duties and responsibilities of all owning and managerial parties. This includes profit sharing, ownership percentages, and your own stipulated rules of operation.
Not only will this add layers of protection for everyone involved, including your new company’s LLC status, but it also trumps default state rules which take over if you don’t have this document in place. To get started, consider checking out an online Operating Agreement Tool which you can customize yourself.
Step 7) Handle Business Taxes & Licensing/Permits
As a legally registered LLC, you're required to pay Wisconsin business taxes and get all necessary licenses/permits to be compliant.
Come tax time, it's your responsibility as a business owner to submit the necessary reports and file the appropriate tax returns as deemed essential for the type of business you operate.
Need Help Forming an LLC?
If you'd like help forming an LLC in Wisconsin, feel free to read our reviews of the two most popular services available.