How to Start an LLC in Wisconsin
Last Updated: By TRUiC Team
It’s easy to form an LLC in Wisconsin online yourself. Just follow these steps:
- Name Your LLC
- Choose a Registered Agent
- File the WI Articles of Organization
- Create an LLC Operating Agreement
- Get an EIN
Or, use a professional service:
Northwest Registered Agent ($29 + State Filing Fee)
LegalZoom ($79 + State Filing Fee)
Starting an LLC in Wisconsin is Easy
You can form a Wisconsin LLC online by registering the Articles of Organization with the Department of Financial Institutions. The cost to set up an LLC in Wisconsin is $130 online or $170 by mail.
Follow our How to Start an LLC in Wisconsin guide below to get started.
To learn how to form an LLC in any state, visit our How to Start an LLC guide.
Step 1: Create A Name For Your Wisconsin LLC
Before you register your Wisconsin LLC, you'll need to come up with a name. Your business name needs to be catchy for branding purposes and legitimate for legal purposes.
We go into depth on this topic in our LLC naming guide. We’ll go over the basics below.
Naming Your LLC
First, brainstorm some possibilities. Use our LLC name generator to get the ideas flowing.
Next, make sure your name meets Wisconsin guidelines:
- it contains the words limited liability company, limited company, LLC or L.L.C.
- it doesn't contain restricted words or phrases (these often include words like bank, attorney, and university) without approval
- it must be distinguishable from any other entity or trade name registered in Wisconsin
- full list of Wisconsin naming guidelines
Next, do a Wisconsin LLC name search with the Department of Financial Institutions to find out if your name is available in Wisconsin.
If your business name is available and meets guidelines, you’ll be able to register it when you file your Wisconsin Articles of Organization with the Department of Financial Institutions.
Is the URL available? Before you commit 100% to a name, check to see if there’s a good web domain available.
We recommend buying your domain right away because even if launching a business website isn’t on your radar right now, it will be soon.
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Once you register a domain name for your LLC, consider setting up a business phone system to establish credibility and enhance your customer service. Nextiva provides a plethora of useful features and a quick, easy setup. Try Nextiva.
Using a Wisconsin Trade Name (DBA)
A Wisconsin DBA (doing business as), also known as a trade name, is any registered name that a business operates under that isn't its legal business name. A trade name can be used by any type of business, including a sole proprietorship, partnership, or limited liability company (LLC).
Learn how to get a DBA in our Wisconsin DBA guide.
Step 2: Appoint A Wisconsin Registered Agent
When you file your Articles of Organization, you'll need to list a registered agent.
A registered agent's job is to accept legal documents like service of process and tax notices for your LLC. To learn more about Wisconsin Registered Agents, read our guide.
Your registered agent can be a person or a registered agent service. You can act as your own registered agent, but many business owners choose to use a registered agent service.
Here are a few things to think about before you decide to act as your own registered agent:
- You’ll need to be available during normal (9 am - 5 pm) business hours at the address you provide
- If you run your business from home, you’ll have to make your personal address public
- You could be served with a lawsuit in front of your family or coworkers
Recommended: Northwest Registered Agent offers a free year of registered agent services when you form your LLC ($29 plus state fees).
Step 3: File the Wisconsin Articles of Organization
It’s time to officially form your LLC by filing your Articles of Organization with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.
You can file online with the Department of Financial Institutions or fill out a hard copy of Wisconsin Form 502 and mail it in. The filing fee is $130.
Recommended: Now is a good time to decide if your LLC will be member-managed vs manager-managed.
You'll need to know the following information to complete each Article:
- Entity Name
- Registered Agent Name and Registered Office Address
- Governing Authority Type
- Organizer Information
For more detailed help with completing the form, visit our Wisconsin Articles of Organization guide.
Mail Your Articles of Organization:
Send the form and payment (payable to the Department of Financial Institutions) to:
State of WI - Dept. of Financial Institutions
P.O. Box 93348
Milwaukee, WI 53293
How long does it take to get a Wisconsin LLC approved? Processing time is immediate if filing online and within 5 days if filing by mail.
Step 4: Create A Wisconsin LLC Operating Agreement
Creating a Wisconsin LLC operating agreement is the only way to legally lock down your LLC’s management and ownership structure. Having an operating agreement in place will give you something to return to if a dispute or lawsuit arises.
Even single-member LLCs benefit from having an operating agreement.
Your operating agreement should outline the following:
- Each member’s responsibilities
- How new members will be admitted
- How existing members may transfer or terminate their membership
- How profits and dividends will be distributed
You can add as many provisions as you want, as long as they don't conflict with Wisconsin business law. Take a look at our What is an Operating Agreement guide to learn more.
Download a template or create a custom Free Operating Agreement using our tool.
Step 5: Get an EIN
An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is like a Social Security number (SSN) for your company. The IRS and the state of Wisconsin will use this number to track your business activity.
Your EIN will come in handy when it’s time to:
- Open a business bank account
- File Federal and State taxes
- Hire employees
The best way to get an EIN for your LLC in Wisconsin is by using the free online application on the IRS website.
Read our Get an EIN guide for instructions.
Need Help Forming an LLC?
We’ve reviewed and ranked the Top 8 LLC formation services.
Steps After Forming an LLC in Wisconsin
After forming your Wisconsin LLC, it's important to:
Open A Business Bank Account
A business bank account helps separate personal expenses and company expenses, which is required to maintain your Wisconsin LLC's corporate veil. A corporate veil protects your personal assets from creditors in potential lawsuits against your LLC or Business.
Learn more by reading this guide to Banking for Entrepreneurs. For a multi-member LLC, you'll also want to set up capital accounts for LLC members. We also recommend checking out our review of the best business bank accounts.
Get A Business Credit Card
A business credit card will help separate personal and business expenses while building your company's credit history. A strong credit history will be useful for raising capital in the form of venture capital, angel investment, or small business loans.
Set Up Business Accounting
Hiring a business accountant is one of the best ways to ensure you’re taking advantage of LLC tax benefits; possibly saving you and your business thousands of dollars per year.
When forming an LLC in Wisconsin, it’s a good idea to start a relationship with a business accountant as soon as you start your business to help set your company up for success.
Get Business Insurance
Business insurance helps manage risk. The most common forms of business insurance are general liability, professional liability, and workers' compensation.
Find out the real cost of getting insurance for your business. Get a free quote or call 855-965-3168.
Keep Your Company Compliant
Research Wisconsin Business Licenses and Permits
To operate an LLC in Wisconsin, you will need to comply with federal, state, and local government regulations such as health permits, building permits, and signage permits.
Business licensing and permit requirements vary from state to state. To get started, visit our How to Get a Business License in Wisconsin guide. To help facilitate this process, you can also utilize a business license service.
File Your Wisconsin LLC Annual Report
Wisconsin requires all LLCs to file an annual report with the Department of Financial Institutions each year. This can be done online and must include the $25 filing fee.
Understand Wisconsin State Tax Requirements
Wisconsin businesses selling a physical product are generally required to register for a seller’s permit with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. Visit our Wisconsin Sales Tax guide to learn more about seller’s permits and Wisconsin sales tax.
Additionally, if you have employees in Wisconsin, you will need to register for unemployment insurance tax through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development as well as sign up for employee withholding tax through the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
Understand Your Wisconsin LLC’s Federal Tax Requirements
Most Wisconsin LLCs will need to report their income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) each year using Form 1065: Partnership Return (multi-member LLCs) or Form 1040 - Schedule C (single-member LLCs).
How you pay yourself will affect your federal taxes. Visit our guide to learn more about how to pay yourself from your LLC.
Know Your Wisconsin LLC’s Federal Tax Election Options
Pass-through taxation entails a business’s profits passing through to the LLC member’s individual tax returns. Like a sole proprietorship, an LLC is taxed as a pass-through entity, also known as a disregarded entity.
Once this process is completed and after any tax-deductible expenses are taken out, the LLC members pay self-employment taxes and income tax on their portion of the business income.
Alternatively, Wisconsin LLCs can choose to elect to be taxed as an S corporation (S corp) or C corporation (C corp). If S corporation tax status is elected, LLC members can be taxed as employees of the business, potentially reducing tax burden.
More LLC Resources
- Wisconsin Foreign LLCs: Forming a foreign LLC allows your company to operate as one entity in multiple states. Download the Wisconsin foreign LLC form to get started.
- Wisconsin Certificate of Good Standing: A certificate of good standing verifies that your LLC was legally formed. To order, follow our Wisconsin certificate of good standing guide.
- Dissolving a Wisconsin LLC: If you are ready to dissolve your LLC, follow the steps in our Wisconsin LLC Dissolution Guide.
- LLC Legal Forms: TRUiC offers a number of free LLC legal forms including operating agreements, LLC resolutions, and hiring documents.
Need Help Forming an LLC?
Read our Best LLC Services review to learn more about pricing and packages.