How to Start an LLC in Wisconsin

How to start an LLC in Wisconsin in 6 easy steps

Starting an LLC in Wisconsin can be a confusing process, especially if you are a first-time business owner or are trying to convert your existing business to an LLC in the state. With so much paperwork and regulations to follow, it’s no wonder that many find the LLC establishment process overwhelming. Fortunately, we’ve created a full LLC set up guide to help you out. Below, we will outline the first steps to take when starting your LLC in Wisconsin. We’ll also give you an overview of the paperwork that you need to file and any applicable fees, so you can understand how to start your Wisconsin LLC for as little as $130!

Step 1. Naming Your Wisconsin LLC

One of the most important first steps is to name it. The name you choose should be unique to your business in addition to following several other Wisconsin naming rules.

Legally Required Designation

According to Wisconsin LLC regulations, the name of your business must contain the phrase “limited liability company” or one of the following abbreviations:

  • LLC
  • L.C.
  • Limited Liability Co.

Unique Name

To ensure the name you select for your LLC is distinct from all other businesses in the state, you can perform a search on the business name database provided by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

If you see a name you like and want to reserve it, you can file a Name Reservation Application with the Department of Financial Institutions. This form reserves your LLC name for up to 120 days before establishment and carries a $15 filing fee. You can choose to pay an extra $25 for expedited filing. To submit this form, you must complete it and mail it to the address below.

Department of Financial Institutions

Division of Corporate and Consumer Services

Corporate Section

PO Box 7846

Madison, WI 53707

If you are interested in expedited filing, send it to this address instead:

Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions

4822 Madison Yards Way, North Tower

Madison, WI 53705

Additionally, while looking for an LLC name, you may want to perform an available domain name search. It is a good idea to purchase a matching domain name regardless of when you want to set up a business website, as this can save you stress in the future.

Restricted Words

When choosing an LLC name, keep in mind that you cannot include any words that run the risk of confusing your business with a government entity. This can include words like “FBI,” “IRS,” “Treasury,” or “State Department.”

You should also be aware that words such as “bank,” “attorney,” or “acupuncturist” may require filing separate paperwork and the presence of a properly licensed individual in your LLC. Wisconsin does allow for the formation of professional LLCs, but this may require meeting additional state licensure requirements, something we talk about [ANCHOR TO #Acquire Necessary Permits and Licenses]later on[END ANCHOR LINK].

Using an Assumed Name

In Wisconsin, you can use an assumed or DBA (doing business as) name for your LLC. This means you continue using the legally registered LLC name on all official documents but use a different registered name when interacting with the public.

You do not have to register your name in Wisconsin to begin using it, but you may want to file a Registration of a Trademark to inform the public that your business is using a specific name. This can prevent confusion between your business’s DBA name and others. More information on filing a trademark can be found here.

Step 2. Choosing a Registered Agent

Every LLC in Wisconsin is required to obtain a registered agent. This person will be responsible for receiving all legal documents, government communications, and tax documents for your LLC; they essentially act as a contact between your business and state or federal agencies. They are also the responsible party that is contacted in the event of a lawsuit against your LLC.

You can appoint any Wisconsin resident, including a member of your LLC, or a business authorized to conduct operations in the state as your registered agent. As long as your appointee has a valid Wisconsin street address and is available during regular business hours, they are eligible to be your registered agent.

Step 3. Filing the Certificate of Formation

Once you have chosen a name and selected a registered agent, you must file your Articles of Organization to legally establish your LLC in Wisconsin. This document is filed with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions and must include some of the information below.

  • Your LLC’s name
  • Your LLC’s registered agent name and address
  • If your LLC is member-managed or manager-managed
  • Each organizer’s name and address
  • Your LLC’s email and phone number
  • Your LLC’s organizer’s signature
  • The name of the person drafting the articles

You can file your Articles of Organization online or through the mail. There is a $170 fee to file by mail or a $130 fee to file online. You can also pay an extra $25 fee for expedited services.


If you want to file your Articles of Organization online, you must visit the online filing portal provided by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. From there, you can review the filing instructions and follow the prompts to complete and submit your document online. All expedited processings will be acted on the next business day after receipt of the form.

By Mail

To file your Articles of Organization by mail, you must print and complete this form. Once you have filled it in, place it in a secure envelope and mail it, along with a check for $170 to the address below. The check should be made out to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.

Department of Financial Institutions

Division of Corporate and Consumer Services

Corporate Section

PO Box 7846

Madison, WI 53707

If you want to pay an extra $25 for expedited filing, add this fee to your check for $170 and send it with the form to the address below. The expedited filing address does change occasionally, so check this page for the most recent mailing location.

Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions

4822 Madison Yards Way, North Tower

Madison, WI 53705

Step 4. Create an Operating Agreement

Wisconsin does not require LLCs to create an operating agreement, but it is a good idea to draft one anyway. This document sets clear guidelines for how your LLC is managed, the rights that members or managers have, and what to do if your LLC dissolves or experiences a lawsuit.

If you choose not to create an LLC operating agreement, Wisconsin LLC law will dictate how your LLC is to be managed in the event of dissolution, conflict, or lawsuit. This may not be in your best interest, so creating an operating agreement is a good idea to protect yourself and your assets.

For help creating an operating agreement, you can check out a sample template online or consult with an attorney and business advisor. If you are using a template, make sure you tailor the template to your specific LLC and business needs.

Step 5. Getting an EIN/Tax ID Number

After your LLC is established, you must apply for a Tax ID number, also known as an EIN (Employer Identification Number) through the IRS. Any LLC that has more than one member — or any single-member LLC that wants to hire employees or chooses to be taxed as a corporation — must apply for an EIN.

Your EIN is used to identify your business to the IRS on all tax documents and necessary government filings; the number acts as a social security number for your LLC. If you want to hire employees, file federal taxes, open business bank or credit accounts, or apply for business funding, you need an EIN.

It is free to apply for your EIN with the IRS, and you can file the application online or by mailing it in. Keep in mind that if you are a foreign filer or do not have a social security number, you must file for your EIN through the mail.


The quickest and easiest way to apply for your EIN is online; you will receive your number once your application is completed. Visit the IRS website to apply for your free EIN.

By Mail

You must fill out this form when applying for your LLC by mail. If you are a foreign filer or do not have a social security number, leave section 7b blank. Mail the completed form to the address below. You can follow up on any questions with the IRS at (267) 941-1099.

Internal Revenue Service

Attn: EIN Operation

Cincinnati, OH 45999

Step 6. Keeping Your LLC Running

To ensure your LLC continues running smoothly, there are several ongoing requirements that you need to keep up with.

File Annual Reports

Every LLC that operates in Wisconsin must file an annual report with the Department of Financial Institutions. The report must be filed online and carries a $25 fee. The report is due annually by the end of the quarter in which the LLC was first established. The quarters are March 31st, June 30th, September 30th, and December 31st. So, for example, if your LLC was formed on April 3rd, then you would need to file the report by June 30th.

If you do not file your annual report, your LLC risks being involuntarily dissolved by the state of Wisconsin.

Separate Your Business Finances

It is not required by Wisconsin to open a business bank account, but it may be a good idea to establish one anyway. A business credit or debit account can keep your LLC’s finances separate from any personal ones, establishing the LLC as an independently operating business.

You most likely need to show your Articles of Organization, operating agreement, EIN, or other LLC documents to open a bank account for your LLC. Compare all your options before deciding which bank account to open, as banks will all have varying minimum required balances or credit spending limits. You want to be sure that you select what is the best for your LLC’s needs.

Keep up With Federal and State Taxes

It is important to stay up to date with federal and state taxes to avoid incurring major fines or tax penalties.

Federal Tax Requirements

There are several tax structures you can choose from to use in your LLC that may meet different company needs; each tax structure comes with its own unique type of federal taxation. This article can help you gain an in-depth understanding of the differences between each type and help you decide which is best for you.

In general, most LLCs are taxed as sole proprietorships or partnerships. This means you will be expected to file Schedule C along with your individual income tax return to declare any income that you receive through your LLC. When using this tax structure, you should keep in mind that you most likely need to pay self-employment tax (at a rate of 15.3%), in addition to any income tax. You may also need to make quarterly estimated tax payments to avoid IRS fines; the IRS website gives more details on this.

If you want, you can choose to have your LLC taxed as a corporation, like an S Corporation or a C Corporation. You need to fill out IRS Form 8832 and IRS Form 2553 to declare this. After these forms have been processed, your LLC will be treated as a corporation and expected to file a separate corporate tax return with the IRS.

Wisconsin Business Taxes

There is no general business tax for LLCs in Wisconsin, but you must file an individual income tax return with the state. LLCs taxed as sole-proprietorships or partnerships (pass-through entities) will claim any business income on their individual return to the state; the Wisconsin personal tax rate schedule can be found here.

If you elect to have your LLC taxed as a corporation, you may be liable to pay separate corporate taxes in the state. Your LLC must file a corporate tax return with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue in this case.

Sales and Use Taxes

If your LLC sells goods or services, you may be liable to pay sales and use tax with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. This tax requires you to register with the Department of Revenue and file periodic returns based on your business type and profits. More information and instructions on both registration and filing can be found here.

State Employer Taxes

For LLCs that have employees, you may be required to pay both withholding and unemployment insurance taxes. Keep in mind you may need to pay these on a federal level, too; you can meet with a professional accountant or financial advisor if you have questions about your tax liability.

In Wisconsin, you can register for and pay withholding taxes through the Department of Revenue, and you can register for and pay unemployment insurance taxes through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

Acquire Necessary Permits and Licenses

There is no general business license requirement in Wisconsin, but you may need to obtain certain permits or licenses based on the location your LLC is operating in and the type of business services you are offering. You can check with your local Clerk’s Office for more information on licensing.

Additionally, if you offer professional services in your LLC, you may need to meet additional state or national licensing and practicing requirements. More information on this can be found through the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.

On a federal level, you may be required to obtain certain permits and licenses for your LLC, depending on the type of business you run and the services you offer. To determine if you need to meet additional federal licensure requirements, you can use the directory on the US Small Business Administration’s website.

Wisconsin LLC Resources

This list of resources can guide you through every step of establishing your LLC in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin LLC FAQs

The below list of frequently asked questions can ease any worries you have about forming your LLC in Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin, it costs $130 or $170 to file your Articles of Organization, depending on if you file online or by mail. You may also need to reserve an LLC name for $15 or pay the $25 expedited service fee while filing your documents.

The cheapest way to start an LLC in Wisconsin is to file online without reserving an LLC name and without paying for expedited services. This allows you to establish your LLC in the state for only $130.

How much your Wisconsin LLC pays in taxes depends on the individual tax structure you set up. You should keep in mind that in addition to federal taxes, you may also have to pay state employer taxes, individual state income taxes, state corporation taxes, or sales and use taxes. It is a good idea to consult with a tax professional if you have any questions about your overall tax burden.

LLCs in Wisconsin must file state reports on an annual basis. The report is due each year by the end of the quarter in which the LLC was first established and must be filed online. There is a $25 filing fee associated with the annual report.

If you are finished conducting business under your LLC, you must file Articles of Dissolution with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. The form carries a $45 filing fee. More information on the process can be found here.

Additionally, you may need to consult any applicable operating agreements your LLC has and proceed down the steps listed to fully conclude your LLC’s operations in the state.

Team BusinessNerd

Our team of legal experts and business professionals have years of experience and are dedicated to providing accurate and up-to-date information to our readers.

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