Everything You Need to Know About Wisconsin Corporations:
Wisconsin Incorporation Options
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How to Incorporate in Wisconsin
To start a corporation in Wisconsin, you’ll need to do three things: appoint a registered agent, choose a name for your business, and file Articles of Incorporation with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. You can file this document online or by mail. The articles cost of $100 to file. Once filed with the state, this document formally creates your Wisconsin corporation.
Per Wisconsin Statute § 180.0501, every Wisconsin corporation must appoint a registered agent. You don’t need to hire a registered agent, but if you do, make sure your registered agent will list their address on your articles wherever possible to ensure maximum privacy.
If you’re starting a new business, you probably already know what you want to name your corporation. But you’ll need to know if your preferred name is available. To find out, visit the Wisconsin DFI Corporate Records Search and browse until you find the perfect name for your corporation.
Once you know who your registered agent will be and what your corporation name is, you’re ready to file your Wisconsin Articles of Incorporation. Follow along with our filing instructions below:
Filing the Wisconsin Articles of Incorporation
Learn more about each Articles of Incorporation requirement below. Note that the information you provide becomes part of the public record—permanently.
Better yet, skip the form entirely and hire us to incorporate your Wisconsin business. We provide a free business address to list whenever possible throughout the filing to better keep your personal address private. Looking for a low-cost way to start a business? Pay just $45 out the door with our Corporate Guide Service monthly payment option.
1. Business Name
Your name must include “Corporation,” “Incorporated,” “Company,” “Limited,” or an abbreviation for one of these words. Tip: Many corporations opt to keep it simple with “Corp” or “Inc.”
2. Authorized Shares
How many shares would you like to create? You must authorize at least one share. You can distribute some or all of these shares later at your organizational meeting.
3. Registered Agent
For your Wisconsin registered agent, list either an individual who is a Wisconsin resident (like yourself) or a business ( but not your own). Tip: Personally, we’re fans of
4. Registered Office
The address you list must be a street address in Wisconsin. The registered address you list will be where your agent will be available to accept legal notices. Tip: Our address will go here when you hire Northwest.
5. Other Provisions
This section is optional, but maybe you have other provisions you’d like to add. For instance, if you want your corporation to begin on a specific date in the future or if you want to grant preemptive rights to shareholders, you could include those provisions here.
6. Wisconsin Incorporator
Your incorporator signs your Articles of Incorporation. They can be a director, officer, or another person you authorize to submit your articles. You must have at least one incorporator, and all incorporators must include their names and addresses. Tip: We’ll be your incorporator when you hire Northwest to form your Wisconsin corporation.
7. Document Drafter
List the name of the person who actually prepared your Articles of Incorporation. Typically, this person is the same as the incorporator. (So we’ll be your drafter when you incorporate with Northwest.)
8. Email or Postal Address
This information will go on the filed copy of your Articles of Incorporation. Tip: When you hire Northwest, you can list our address here.
Why Have a Registered Agent Form Your Wisconsin Corporation?
Professionals in Wisconsin hire registered agent services like Northwest Registered Agent for incorporation—but why?
Standard filing companies don’t have employees or offices in every state. But as a national registered agent, it’s a requirement for us, which is a benefit for our clients. Our office is in Appleton, WI. We’re on a first name basis with the people who work in the Department of Financial Institutions. We know all the fastest filing methods, which translates to fast, professional service—without extra fees.
As your registered agent, we list our Appleton registered office address on your corporation’s formation documents. Why? If you’re starting a business from your apartment in Milwaukee, do you really want your apartment address as your business address? (Hint: the answer is no.) We’ll list our address, so you don’t have to list yours. Plus, we never sell your data. We don’t list your personal information on filings if we don’t have to. It’s all standard and part of our commitment to Privacy by Default®.
Free Mail Forwarding, Business Address and More
At Northwest, we do everything a registered agent should do and more. You can list our address as your business address on your state filings. We include limited digital mail forwarding with registered agent service (up to 5 pieces of regular mail per year; $15 a doc after that).
Plan on accepting credit cards? We also offer a Free Credit Card Processing Consultation. Our specialists work with processors to negotiate low rates and better contracts for our clients.
And now, try our in-house Northwest Phone Service for 60 days, free of charge with our formation service. Get a virtual phone number with your choice of area code, make and receive calls from any device, and more—for just $9 a month.
Northwest Phone ServiceLocal Expertise
We know the in’s and out’s of each state—and we use this knowledge to help you when you need it most. Our team of Corporate Guides® has over 200 local business experts. You can call or email us for answers to all your questions about your corporation in Wisconsin. Our Corporate Guides are dedicated solely to helping you with your business—not selling you services or meeting quotas.
What Do I Do After My Wisconsin Corporation Is Formed?
After your Wisconsin Articles of Incorporation are approved, you still have a few more important steps to take, including getting an EIN, drafting bylaws, holding your first meeting, opening a bank account, and learning about state reporting and tax requirements.
Get an EIN
Your federal employer identification number (commonly known as an EIN or FEIN) is similar to a social security number for your business. The IRS assigns these numbers and uses them to easily identify individual corporations on tax filings, including federal corporate income tax returns.
Why does my Wisconsin corporation need an EIN?
The IRS requires corporations to get an EIN for their federal tax filings, and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue requires an EIN for their business registration. You may also be asked for your EIN when opening a bank account, securing a loan, or applying for local business permits and licenses.
How do I get an EIN for my corporation?
You can get an EIN directly from the IRS. The application is free, and most businesses can apply online. However, if you don’t have a social security number, you’ll need to submit a paper application form. Can’t bear to fill out yet another application? Hire Northwest to get your EIN for you. Just add on EIN service during checkout when you sign up for our incorporation service. Or choose our Corporate Guide Service—an EIN is included.
Write Corporate Bylaws
Bylaws are the internal rules you set for your business. They put into writing how decisions will be made and who gets to make those decisions. All the major organizational processes and procedures for your corporation will go in your bylaws.
For more on Wisconsin Corporate Bylaws (including a free Wisconsin Corporate Bylaws template), see our Wisconsin Corporate Bylaws resource.
Do I need bylaws for my Wisconsin corporation?
No. WI Stat § 180.0206 (2019) notes that bylaws can be adopted either by the corporation’s incorporators, board of directors, or shareholders, but it’s not required.
If you decide to write bylaws, you don’t need to worry about submitting them to the state. Corporate bylaws are internal documents you keep with your other corporate records, such as meeting minutes and resolutions.
What should bylaws include?
Corporate bylaws cover basic policies and procedures for issues such as company finances and management. Bylaws should cover a range of topics, answering key questions like those below:
Meetings: When and where will meetings for shareholders and directors be held? How many attendees are required to transact business? What are the procedures for voting or proxy voting? How do you call a special meeting? What actions can be taken without a meeting?
Stock: How are stock certificates issued and transferred? How is voting affected by issues such as corporate stock owners or fractional shares?
Directors and officers: How many directors must there be? Which officer positions are required? What powers do they have? How do you fill a vacancy or remove a director or officer?
Finances: What are the procedures for retaining profits, issuing dividends, and paying bills? Who can withdraw money from the corporate bank account or sign checks?
Records: Where is the corporate book to be kept? What information will be maintained? How are requests for review or access honored? Can records or copies be kept or distributed digitally?
Amendments and emergencies: Who can amend bylaws and how? Can emergency bylaws be adopted in the case of disaster?
Wisconsin bylaws can make other provisions as well, assuming additions are in accordance with state law. For example, WI Stat § 180.0626 (2019) states that Wisconsin bylaws can determine if the shares of a company have to be issued with a certificate. If the board of directors votes to authorize the issuance of shares without certificates, the corporation must send its shareholders a written statement of the same information required on share certificates.
How do I write bylaws?
Creating bylaws can be overwhelming—where do you start? Northwest can help. We give you free corporate bylaws when you hire us to form your Wisconsin corporation. We know what kinds of topics and questions corporations need to address, and we’ve spent years refining and improving our forms. We offer many other free corporate forms as well, including templates for resolutions and meeting minutes.
Hold an Organizational Meeting
An organizational meeting is the first official meeting of the corporation after the business is legally formed with the state. At this meeting, bylaws are adopted, officers are appointed, and any other initial business is conducted. The first meeting minutes should also be recorded and added to your corporate record book.
Are there any special rules for Wisconsin organizational meetings?
Your organizational meeting doesn’t have to be held in Wisconsin, and per WI Stat § 180.0205 (2019), action can be taken without a meeting as long each action is recorded and signed by each incorporator.
Open a Corporate Bank Account
Businesses that mix personal and business finances together risk losing their liability protections, so your corporation will need its own bank account. In addition, a corporate bank account is essential for easily accepting payments, paying bills and holding funds.
How do I open a bank account for my Wisconsin corporation?
To open a corporate bank account in Wisconsin, you’ll need to bring the following with you to the bank:
A copy of the Wisconsin corporation’s Articles of Incorporation
The corporation’s bylaws
The corporation’s EIN
If your bylaws don’t specifically assign the power to open a bank account, you may also want to bring a corporate resolution to open a bank account. The resolution would state that the person going to the bank is authorized by the business to open the account in the name of the corporation. At Northwest, we provide free corporate bank resolutions, along with many other free corporate forms, to help you get started fast.
File Wisconsin Reports & Taxes
In Wisconsin, corporations file an annual report each year. Your corporation is also subject to state taxes, including a corporate franchise tax on net income.
What is the Wisconsin Annual Report?
The Wisconsin Annual Report is a filing you must submit each year. This filing will update your corporation’s current contact and ownership information. These reports are submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, Division of Corporate and Consumer Services.
How much is the Wisconsin Annual Report?
It depends on how you submit your report. Wisconsin favors of online submissions—which is why the report costs $25 if you file online and $40 if you use the paper form.
When is the Wisconsin Annual Report due?
Your filing will have one of four due dates: March 31st, June 30th, September 30th, or December 31st, depending on which quarter of the year you first registered your business. For example, if you registered sometime between July and September, your filing will be due September 30th.
These filings can be easy to forget—which is why we send our clients automatic reminders for your Wisconsin Annual Report filing. Or better yet, let us file for you. With our business renewal service, we send you the completed annual report, then submit the report for you for $100 plus the state fee and any tax owed.
What should I know about Wisconsin corporate taxes?
Wisconsin has a corporate franchise tax on net income. The rate is a flat 7.9%. Have over $4 million in gross receipts? Your corporation will also be subject to the state’s economic development surcharge. The surcharge is 3% of gross tax liability. There’s a minimum surcharge of $25 and a maximum of $9,800.
The state sales tax is 5%. County and specialty rates can tack on up to 0.6% more, so total sales tax rates vary between 5% (like in Appleton and Oshkosh) and 5.6% (like in Milwaukee and Allenton).
Do corporations have to register with the Wisconsin Department Of Revenue?
Most likely. For example, if you have employees or need a seller’s permit you’ll have to register with the Department of Revenue. Initial registration costs $20 and the renewal fee is $10. (You’re required to renew your registration with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue every two years.) You can register with the Department of Revenue on their website or by filing a paper Business Tax Registration application. You’ll need your EIN before you can register.
Wisconsin Corporation FAQs
How can I submit the Wisconsin Articles of Incorporation?
You can file Wisconsin articles online or by mail. Mailed filings must be submitted (typed or printed in black ink) to the following address:
State of WI – Dept. of Financial Institutions
Milwaukee WI 53293-0348
How much does it cost to start a Wisconsin corporation?
$100. Need it expedited? Add $25.
Hire us for a one-time fee of $325, including the state filing fees. This includes state fees, a full year of registered agent service, an loads of forms and resources to help you get you new business up and running. Or, pay just $45 out the door with our Corporate Guide Service monthly payment option.
How long does it take to start a Wisconsin corporation?
Online filings are processed quickly—usually within a day. Mailed filings take 4-7 days. 2-day expediting is available for $25. (It’s kind of worthless when filing online, but useful if filing by mail).
If you hire Northwest to start your corporation, we file online and typically have your Wisconsin corporation formed within 24 hours.
Does a Wisconsin corporation need a business license?
The state itself doesn’t have a general business license, but local areas may have their own licensing requirements, typically for specific business activities. For instance, the City of Kenosha requires licenses for a variety of activities, from selling Christmas trees to operating a pet store.
For some license applications you may need an EIN or a certified copy of your Articles of Incorporation. At Northwest, we can streamline the process and get these for you—simply add on these items during checkout.
What is a foreign Wisconsin corporation?
A corporation formed outside of Wisconsin—but which conducts business in the state—is considered a foreign Wisconsin corporation. For example, if you incorporated in Illinois but decide to open a storefront in Wisconsin, you would be a foreign Wisconsin corporation. This also means you would need to register with the state by filing a Wisconsin Certificate of Authority Application with the Department of Financial Institutions. Foreign corporations are required to file the Wisconsin Annual Report each year as well.
Can Northwest help me form a nonprofit corporation?
Absolutely! We’re happy to start a nonprofit corporation for you. Note that incorporating an Wisconsin nonprofit requires a different form. The filing fee is lower as well. Wisconsin nonprofits must file an annual report each year ($10).
How can I get a Wisconsin phone number for my corporation?
It’s a conundrum: you need a local number to display on your website and give to customers, but you don’t want to make your personal number quite so…public. We get it. And we’ve got you covered with Northwest Phone Service. We can provide you with a virtual phone number in any state—plus unlimited call forwarding and tons of easy-to-use features. You can try Phone Service free for 60 days when you hire us to form your corporation, and maintaining service is just $9 monthly after that. No contract required.
How to Order Wisconsin Incorporation Service
Our Wisconsin incorporation service is designed to be fast and easy—signing up takes just a couple minutes. Here’s how it works:
We offer flexibility with two different options for payment. You can pay everything up front, which includes a full year of registered agent service. Or, pay just $45 out the door with our Corporate Guide Service monthly payment option. With our Corporate Guide Service, we also include an EIN. Just choose one of the buttons below, answer a few easy questions about your business and submit your payment.
Next, we’ll prepare and submit your Wisconsin Articles of Incorporation to the Department of Financial Institutions. In the meantime, you’ll have immediate access to your online account, where you can find useful state forms, pre-populated with your business information.
Once the Wisconsin Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions has approved your filing, we notify you that your Wisconsin corporation has been legally formed. You can now move on to next steps, like holding your organizational meeting and opening a bank account.