Everything You Need to Know About Wisconsin LLCs:
Wisconsin LLC Formation Options
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How to Start an LLC in Wisconsin
To start an LLC in Wisconsin, you’ll need to do three things: appoint a registered agent, choose a name for your business, and file Articles of Organization with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. You can file the document online or by mail. The articles cost $130 to file online and $170 with a paper form. Once filed with the state, this document formally creates your Wisconsin LLC.
According to WI Stat § 183.0105 (2019), every Wisconsin LLC 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 LLC. But you’ll need to know if your preferred name is available. To find out, visit https://www.wdfi.org/apps/CorpSearch/Search.aspx? and search until you find the perfect name for your LLC.
Once you know who your registered agent will be and what your LLC name is, you’re ready to file your Wisconsin Articles of Organization. Follow along with our filing instructions below:
Filing the Wisconsin LLC Articles of Organization
Learn more about each Articles of Organization requirement below. Note that the information you provide becomes part of the public record—permanently.
Or skip the form entirely and hire us to form your Wisconsin LLC. We provide a free business address to list whenever possible throughout the filing to better keep your personal address private.
1. Company Name
You must include “Limited Liability Company” or an abbreviation like “LLC.” Your name can’t be the same or too similar to another name in use in Wisconsin.
2. Registered Agent
Your Wisconsin registered agent must be available during business hours to accept legal notices for your LLC. You can list yourself, someone else, or a service like Northwest. Naturally, we recommend Northwest.
3. Registered Office
This Wisconsin street address will become part of the permanent record of your LLC. When you hire Northwest, our address will go here—and you can better keep your personal home or office address off public records.
4. LLC Management
Your Wisconsin LLC can be managed by members (owners) or managers. In a member-managed LLC, members make all the decisions. Don’t plan to run the day-to-day operations? You can turn those powers over to one or more managers.
5. Wisconsin LLC Organizer
It may sound like a fancy title, but your organizer is just the person who signs and submits your Articles of Organization. Organizers have to include their name and address, but they don’t have to be anyone in your LLC. We’ll be your organizer when you hire Northwest to form your Wisconsin LLC.
6. Document Drafter
Whoever actually filled out the form has to include their name as well. Typically, this person is the same as the organizer. (So we’ll be your drafter when you hire Northwest.)
7. Effective Date
Want your business to start right away? Skip this optional section. If you want a specific start within 90 days (maybe you want to line up your start with the beginning of a tax period), you can include a future effective date.
Why Have a Registered Agent Form Your Wisconsin LLC?
Professionals in Wisconsin hire registered agent services like Northwest Registered Agent to start an LLC—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 LLC’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 and Business Address
We already accept your legal mail—so why not take it a step further? In every state, we include limited digital mail forwarding for your regular mail too (5 pieces of regular mail a year; $15 a doc after that). Plus, you can list our address as your business address. That means you can have all business mail routed through our office. With both mail forwarding and a business address included, you get a level of security unmatched in the formation industry.
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 LLC 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 LLC Is Formed?
After your Wisconsin Articles of Organization are approved, you still have a few more important steps to take, including getting an EIN, drafting an operating agreement, opening a bank account, funding the LLC and learning about state reporting and tax requirements.
Get an EIN
An EIN (“Employer Identification Number”) is a federal tax ID assigned to your business by the IRS. The IRS uses your EIN to easily identify your business on tax filings.
Does a Wisconsin LLC need an EIN?
You’ll most likely need an EIN (or at least want one). Your Wisconsin LLC is absolutely required to have an EIN if you have employees, are taxed as a corporation, or file certain federal excise returns. When you go to open a business bank account or start registering and applying for permits, licenses and taxes, you’ll find yourself being asked for your EIN over and over again. In many cases, you can fork over your personal social security number instead—but the more you hand that out, the more you risk compromising your personal information. Basically, you might as well get an EIN, even if you don’t need one right away.
How do I get an EIN for my LLC?
You can apply for an EIN directly from the IRS at no cost. Most businesses are able to apply online, but if you don’t have a social security number, you’ll need to apply with a paper form. Want one less thing to do? Add on EIN service when you hire us, and we’ll get your EIN for you. Or choose our VIP service—an EIN is included.
Write an LLC Operating Agreement
Operating agreements put into writing how your business actually operates—how much each member invested, how profits and losses will be allocated, how voting works, and what happens if there’s a dispute or if the whole business (knock on wood) falls apart.
Do I need an operating agreement for a Wisconsin LLC?
Wisconsin doesn’t legally require an operating agreement in the state statutes. That said, an operating agreement isn’t just annoying paperwork. It’s one of your LLC’s most important internal documents, and creating one can help your LLC with everything from opening a bank account to handling major events from mergers to dissolution.
What should be in an operating agreement?
An operating agreement should explain how the business will handle “big picture” situations—everything from allocating profits and losses to dissolving the business. Below is a list of common topics that operating agreements should cover.
- Initial investments
- Profits, losses, and distributions
- Voting rights, decision-making powers, and management
- Transfer of membership interest
- Dissolving the business
Your operating agreement can cover pretty much anything as long as it isn’t contrary to Wisconsin law or your articles.
How do I write an operating agreement?
To write an operating agreement, you need to address how your business will handle money, members, votes, management, and more. Not sure how to get started? At Northwest, we’re here to help your LLC get off on the right foot. When you hire us, we provide your business with a free LLC operating agreement, specific to your management style. We’ve spent years developing these agreements and other free LLC forms—which have been used by over a million LLCs.
Open an LLC Bank Account
Your LLC needs its own bank account. Why? An LLC gets its limited liability from being a distinct entity, separate from its members. If you mix personal and business finances, you could lose your liability protections.
How do I open a bank account for my Wisconsin LLC?
To open a bank account for your Wisconsin LLC, you will need to bring the following with you to the bank:
A copy of the Wisconsin LLC Articles of Organization
The LLC operating agreement
The LLC’s EIN
If there are multiple members in the LLC, you may also want to bring an LLC resolution to open a bank account that states that the person going to the bank is authorized by the members to open the account in the name of the LLC. Northwest can help with this as well—LLC bank resolutions are one of the many free legal forms we provide to ensure you can get your LLC started fast.
Fund the LLC
Time to put some money in that new LLC bank account. What money? For starters, your initial contributions to your LLC’s capital. LLC members are owners, and each owner needs to pay for their membership interest to fund the LLC.
What is membership interest?
Membership interest is your percentage of ownership of the LLC. Membership interest is normally proportionate to your investment. So how does this work?
Imagine your LLC has 5 members. 4 members each invest $1,000 in the business. One member invests $6,000. The total contribution of all members is $10,000. The 4 members each own 10% of the business. The moneybags member who shelled out $6,000 owns 60% of the business.
Typically, this also means that the 4 members would each get 10% of any profits, and moneybags would get 60%. Exactly how profits and losses are allocated, however, can be adjusted in the operating agreement as long as changes are in line with IRS requirements and Wisconsin laws.
File Wisconsin Reports & Taxes
Wisconsin LLCs are required to file a state report each year. This report is basically an information update you file so the state knows who currently runs things and how to contact your business. Wisconsin LLCs are also subject to state tax filing requirements.
How much is the Wisconsin Annual Report fee?
The fee for the Wisconsin Annual Report is $25. Fail to file and the state puts your LLC in delinquent status.
When is the Wisconsin Annual Report due?
Your Wisconsin Annual Report is due at the end of your “anniversary quarter” (for example, if you originally registered your LLC in the first 3 months of the year, it’s due March 31st). If the hard-to-remember date isn’t bad enough, forgetting to file puts your Wisconsin LLC into delinquent status.
When you sign up for Northwest, we send you reminders for your annual report due dates. Want one less thing to worry about? With our business renewal service, we can complete and submit your annual report for you for $100 plus the state fee.
What should I know about Wisconsin LLC taxes?
Wisconsin uses a progressive personal net income tax, which ranges from 3.54%-7.65%. The state also has a 5% sales tax—although cities and counties can stack on local sales taxes as well. The maximum total sales tax tops out at 6.75% (which you can find in Lake Delton), but the average total sales tax is 5.441%.
If your LLC is taxed as an S corporation AND has at least $4 million in gross receipts, you’re also subject to Wisconsin’s Economic Development Surcharge (essentially a net income tax of 0.2%). There’s a minimum surcharge of $25 and a maximum of $9,800.
Do LLCs have to register with the Wisconsin Department Of Revenue?
Yes. Wisconsin is pretty heavily invested in making sure businesses meet all of their tax obligations. If you conduct business in Wisconsin, you must register with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. When you use the Wisconsin One Stop Business Portal your LLC is automatically registered with the Department of Revenue. If you choose to file by mail, you will need to register with the Department of Revenue separately.
Wisconsin LLC FAQs
How can I submit the Wisconsin LLC Articles of Organization?
You can file Wisconsin articles online or by mail. Mailed filings must be submitted to the following address:
State of WI-Dept. of Financial Institutions
Milwaukee WI, 53293-0348
How much does it cost to start a Wisconsin LLC?
The filing fee for your Wisconsin LLC Articles of Organization is $130 ($170 if you choose to file by mail). Add $25 if you want expedited, next day service.
Hire Northwest for a one-time fee of $355. This includes state filing fees, a year of registered agent service, limited mail forwarding and loads of useful forms and tools to help get your Wisconsin LLC up and running. Or, pay just $38 out the door with our VIP monthly payment option.
How long does it take to start a Wisconsin LLC?
Online filings are usually processed the same day. Mailed filings average 5 days for processing (though it can be longer during when busy). Pay an extra $25 and you can get your Articles of Organization processed the next business day.
If you hire Northwest to start your LLC, we file online and typically have your Wisconsin LLC formed within 24 hours.
Does a Wisconsin LLC need a business license?
While Wisconsin doesn’t have a general, state-wide business license, there’s a pretty unusual registration fee that many businesses will have to pay for (and renew every two years): the Department of Revenue registration fee. If you’re required to register with the DOR (for example, if you need to get a seller’s permit or have to withhold income tax from employees), you’ll have to shell out $20 for an initial registration. Your registration must be renewed every two years, and the renewal fee is $10.
On the local level, cities and counties may have their own licensing requirements, most commonly for specific business activities like selling alcohol or dealing secondhand goods. Need an EIN or a certified copy of your formation docs for your license applications? Northwest can help. You can easily add on these items to your LLC formation order.
Can a Wisconsin LLC help me live more privately?
Yes, a Wisconsin LLC can help you reduce your public footprint. For example, you can maintain a significant degree of address privacy by listing our address on public docs instead of your own. Check out our page on living privately with an LLC to learn more.
What is a foreign Wisconsin LLC?
A foreign Wisconsin LLC is any LLC formed outside of Wisconsin but registered to do business in the state. For example, if you formed an LLC in Illinois but wanted to conduct business in Wisconsin as well, you would register as a foreign LLC in Wisconsin by filing form 521 with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. Like domestic LLCs, foreign LLCs in the state have to file annual Wisconsin annual reports. Northwest can register your foreign Wisconsin LLC for you today!
How to Order LLC Formation Service
Our Wisconsin LLC formation service is designed to be fast and easy—signing up takes just a couple minutes. Here’s how it works:
With Northwest, we give you flexibility on how to pay. You can pay all the fees up front (this includes one full year of registered agent service). Or, pay just $38 out the door with our VIP monthly payment option. With our VIP option, we also include an EIN. Just choose one of the buttons below, answer a few easy questions about your business and submit your payment.
We’ll prepare your Wisconsin Articles of Organization and send them to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions for approval. 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 Department of Financial Institutions has approved your filing, we notify you that your Wisconsin LLC has been legally formed. You can now take any necessary next steps, like getting an EIN and opening a bank account.