How to Start an LLC in Wisconsin
To start an LLC in Wisconsin, you must file Articles of Organization with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. You can file the document online or by mail. The Articles of Organization cost $130 to file. Once filed with the state, this document formally creates your Wisconsin LLC. However, to actually ready the LLC to do business, you must complete several additional steps.
Starting a Wisconsin LLC Guide:
- Choose your Wisconsin LLC filing option
- Submit the Wisconsin Articles of Organization
- Create a Wisconsin LLC Operating Agreement
- Get a Federal EIN from the IRS
- Open a bank account for your Wisconsin LLC
- Obtain any required business licenses
- File the Wisconsin LLC Annual Report
- Pay taxes on the LLC income
Wisconsin LLC Filing Options
Free PDF Download
Wisconsin LLC Articles of Organization free download. When you're done filling out the form, submit it to your state.
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Wisconsin Articles of Organization Requirements
To form a Wisconsin LLC, you must complete and file the Articles of Organization with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. See the document below and click on any number to see what information is required in the corresponding section.
You must include “Limited Liability Company” or an abbreviation. Most businesses keep it simple with “LLC.”
You can list an individual (such as yourself) or a business (such as Northwest). Naturally, we’re fans of Northwest.
This Wisconsin street address will become part of the permanent record of your LLC. When you hire Northwest, our address will go here.
Your Wisconsin LLC can be managed by members 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 (but you won’t have input anymore). Tip: Most LLCs are member-managed.
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.
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.)
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.
How much does it cost to start a Wisconsin LLC?
If you file online, the state filing fee is $130. If you use a paper form, the state ups the fee to a hefty $170. Need it expedited? Add on $25.
Hire Northwest and your total, out-the-door cost is $355, including state fees, registered agent service, and loads of useful forms to help launch your Wisconsin LLC.
How long does it take to start a Wisconsin LLC?
Online filings typically take a day (although the Department of Financial Institutions notes that they can take up to 5 days). Mailed filings are not only slower (4-7 days)—they cost $40 more than filing online. So unless you have to pay by check or money order, there’s really no reason to mail your Articles of Organization. For an extra $25 you can get 2-day expediting (kinda worthless for online filings but useful if you file by mail).
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 registered agent?
Yep, your LLC must appoint and maintain a Wisconsin registered agent. You don’t necessarily have to hire someone—you could always appoint yourself. Being your own registered agent, however, has some drawbacks. The core of the job is being available during business hours to accept legal notices. Taking vacations, attending meetings or traveling for business suddenly becomes a whole lot harder when you’re tied to your desk. You’ll also have to publicly list the address where you’ll be in your formation and maintenance documents (like your Articles and Annual Reports). If you list your personal address or office on these forms, you could end up with a mailbox full of junk and strangers knocking at your door.
Let them knock on ours instead. At Northwest Registered Agent, we’re happy to sort through your spam—we’ll also scan and send any legal notices the same day.
Create the Wisconsin LLC Operating Agreement
Do I need an Operating Agreement?
You don’t have to file your operating agreement with any state agency, so technically there’s no legal requirement to have one—but there’s no legal requirement to wear a coat when it’s 20 below either. It’s just a really, really good idea.
Why is an Operating Agreement important?
Your operating agreement is the most important internal document of your LLC. It’s where you spell out all of your most critical information—like who actually owns the business. How much each person invested. How profits and losses will be allocated. What happens if members don’t agree. What happens if you call it a day on the whole business. Even though they’re internal documents, operating agreements are useful for those outside your business as well. They provide a snapshot of how your business is structured and how it operates. Your bank will ask to see it when you go to open a bank account. Lenders, investors and partners will want to see it as well. Anyone with $130 can start a Wisconsin LLC, so your operating agreement helps prove you’re a legitimate, serious business.
Do I have to write the Operating Agreement?
Not from scratch. At Northwest, we know that operating agreements are critical. That’s why as part of our formation service package, we include a free operating agreement, specific to your LLC’s management style. We believe in the power of well-written business documents so much that we hand out loads of other important (and free) LLC forms too: resolutions, membership certificates, bill of sale templates and more. We have everything your Wisconsin LLC needs, and we’ve spent years revising and improving our forms to make them better and better. Over a million LLCs have used our free forms to help start and maintain their business. Take a look:
Get a Wisconsin LLC EIN
Do I have to get a tax ID number (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. They’re free from the IRS. Want to skip this extra application? Hire Northwest to get your EIN for you when you sign up for our services.
Open a Bank Account for Your 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 Wisconsin 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.
We recommend calling your bank ahead of time before going in and asking what their requirements are. Most banks don’t open business accounts nearly as frequently as personal accounts, so some bankers may be unfamiliar with their own bank’s requirements. As frustrating as that may be for you, calling ahead will help save you from being super annoyed when you walk into the bank.
Obtain a Business License
Does a Wisconsin LLC need a business license?
While Wisconsin doesn’t have a general, statewide 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.
File Wisconsin LLC Reports
What is a Wisconsin LLC Annual Report?
Your Wisconsin LLC Annual Report is a form you file each year to make sure the state has your most up-to-date ownership and contact information. The report and $25 filing fee are 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. On the plus side, when you sign up for services with Northwest, we’ll help you remember your reports. We send our clients reminder notifications for key filings to ensure they stay compliant. Wish you didn’t have to worry about this annoying filing at all? Hire Northwest to file your Annual Report for you each year.
How much does an LLC in Wisconsin cost each year?
There’s a $25 fee to submit the mandatory Wisconsin LLC Annual Report.
Pay the LLC Taxes
What are the Wisconsin LLC taxes?
The Wisconsin personal net income tax rates are:
4.00%: $0 to $11,229
5.84%: $11,230 to $22,469
6.27%: $22,470 to $247,349
7.65%: $247,350 +
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 .2%). There’s a minimum surcharge of $25 and a maximum of $9,800.
The state sales tax is 5%. There’s no city sales tax, but counties and specialty rates can increase the total, making the average total sales tax in Wisconsin 5.439%.