Starting an LLC in Wisconsin (Step-by-Step)
2022 Guide

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Deal alert! Our favorite company, Northwest, is forming LLCs for $39 (60% off!) See details.

How to start an LLCIf you googled how to set up an LLC in Wisconsin, and are feeling confused, don’t worry! This page covers everything you need to know, including step-by-step instructions.

Guide to starting an LLC in Wisconsin

To start a Wisconsin LLC, you’ll need to file the LLC Articles of Organization. This costs $130 if filed online (or $170 if filed by mail).

This form gets filed with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). And once it’s approved, your LLC officially goes into existence.

However, there are other steps to starting a Limited Liability Company (LLC) in Wisconsin. For example, searching your business name and hiring a Registered Agent.

We break down the Wisconsin LLC process step-by-step with pro-tips that we’ve learned over the years. The process is pretty simple, and you can start a Wisconsin LLC today.

LLC Costs in Wisconsin

LLC RequirementsCost
Articles of Organization$130
Registered Agent$0 or $125 per year
Operating AgreementFree on our website
EIN NumberFree from the IRS
Annual Report$25 per year
TaxesVaries

Need to save time? Hire a company to form your LLC:
Northwest ($39 + state fee) or LegalZoom ($149 + state fee)

(check out Northwest vs LegalZoom)

1. Search your LLC Name

First, make sure your Wisconsin LLC Name is available in the state.LLC names

You can do this by using the Corporate Records Search. You can search for your business name to compare it against existing businesses registered in Wisconsin. You need to do this because two businesses in the state can’t have the same name.

Next, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the business name requirements in Wisconsin.

Section 183.0112 of the Wisconsin LLC Act has a few rules and requirements for naming Limited Liability Companies that you need to know.

LLC Designator

The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions requires that your Limited Liability Company use a proper designator at the end of its name. Acceptable LLC designators in Wisconsin include:

  • LLC
  • Limited Liability Company
  • LC
  • Limited Company
  • Ltd. Liability Co.

Tip: Most people choose “LLC”.

Your LLC name cannot include a designator that makes it sound like a different type of business structure. For example, your name cannot use the words or abbreviations Corporation, Corp., Inc., Incorporated, or Cooperative. There are other rules too, like not making your LLC name sound like a government agency.

2. Choose a Wisconsin Registered Agent

The next step is to choose a Wisconsin Registered Agent.

Registered AgentA Wisconsin Registered Agent is a person or company who accepts legal mail (called Service of Process) and state notices on behalf of your Wisconsin Limited Liability Company.

Who can be an LLC Registered Agent?

You have three options for who can be the Registered Agent:

  • You
  • A friend or family member
  • A Registered Agent Service

The Registered Agent for your LLC must have a physical street address in Wisconsin. PO Boxes aren’t allowed.

If you, a friend, or family member will be your LLC Registered Agent, they should be comfortable having their name and address listed on public records.

If you don’t have an address in Wisconsin, or you prefer more privacy, you can hire a Registered Agent Service for your LLC.

We recommend Northwest Registered Agent

Our favorite Registered Agent service is Northwest Registered Agent ($125 per year).

They’ll scan any mail sent to your LLC and upload it to your online account. Northwest has excellent customer service and they’ve been in business for more than 20 years.

Special offer: If you hire Northwest to form your LLC ($39 + state fee), they’ll include their Registered Agent service free for the 1st year.

(Check out our Northwest Registered Agent review to learn more)

3. File Wisconsin Articles of Organization

To form an LLC, you need to file Wisconsin Articles of Organization with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI).Articles of Organization

The Wisconsin LLC Articles of Organization filing fee is $130 if you file online, or $170 if you file by mail. This is a one-time fee to create your LLC.

Filing Methods

You can file the Articles of Organization online or by mail.

We recommend filing online as it’s easier to complete and has a faster approval time. The online filing system is called Quickstart LLC.

Alternatively, if you prefer to file by mail, you can download the Articles of Organization (Form 502) and then send it to the Wisconsin DFI with a check or money order.

Mailing address: Send your completed Articles of Organization and your $170 filing fee to:

State of WI – Dept. of Financial Institutions
PO Box 93348
Milwaukee, WI 53293-0348

LLC approval time

The approval time for a Wisconsin LLC is usually 5 business days. Please see How long does it take to get an LLC in Wisconsin to check for any delays.

Need to save time? Hire a company to form your LLC:
Northwest ($39 + state fee) or LegalZoom ($149 + state fee)

(check out Northwest vs LegalZoom)

4. Create your LLC Operating Agreement

A Wisconsin LLC Operating Agreement is a written contract that establishes who owns the LLC and how much of the LLC each Member owns.

Operating AgreementOperating Agreements can also explain:

  • how taxes are paid
  • how profits are distributed
  • how the LLC is managed
  • and the business purpose of the LLC

We recommend that both Single-Member LLCs and Multi-Member LLCs have an Operating Agreement.

In case of a lawsuit, LLC Operating Agreements can help prove that your Wisconsin LLC is being run properly as a separate legal business entity.

You don’t need to send your Wisconsin LLC’s Operating Agreement to any state or federal agency. It also doesn’t need to be notarized. Just keep a copy with your LLC’s business records and make sure all Members have a copy too.

Your Operating Agreement can be flexible. You can make changes as needed, as long as all of the Members agree.

Download a free LLC Operating Agreement:
Member-managed: Google DocWordPDF
Manager-managed: Google DocWord

5. Get an EIN for your Wisconsin LLC

The next step is to get an EIN Number (Federal Employer Identification Number) from the IRS for your LLC.

EIN Number for an LLCYour EIN Number is used to:

  • identify your LLC for tax purposes
  • open a business bank account

And if applicable, to:

  • handle employee payroll
  • get a business credit card or loan
  • apply for business licenses and permits

Wait for your LLC to be approved before applying for your Employer Identification Number. If your LLC is rejected by the state, you’ll need to get a new EIN (and cancel the old EIN).

Getting a Federal Tax ID Number is completely free. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issues Federal Tax ID Numbers at no charge.

How to get an EIN

US Citizens and US Residents: If you have a SSN (Social Security Number) or ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number), we recommend applying for an EIN online. We have step-by-step instructions here: Apply for an EIN online.

Non-US Residents: If you don’t have an SSN or ITIN, you can still get an EIN for your LLC. You just can’t apply online. Instead, you need to apply by mail or fax. We have step-by-step instructions here: How to get an EIN without an SSN or ITIN.

6. File your Wisconsin LLC Annual Report

LLC Annual ReportAll Wisconsin LLCs must file a Wisconsin LLC Annual Report every year.

The Annual Report filing fee is $25 per year and the state uses a quarterly system. When your LLC’s Annual Report is due depends on when it was approved:

  • If your LLC was approved between January 1 – March 31, the due date is March 31.
  • If your LLC was approved between April 1 – June 30, the due date is June 30.
  • If your LLC was approved between July 1 – September 30, the due date is September 30.
  • If your LLC was approved between October 1- December 31, the due date is December 31.

When is my first Annual Report due? Your first Annual Report is due the year after your LLC was approved. For example, if your LLC was approved on February 15, 2022, your first Annual Report is due by March 31, 2023.

How to file an LLC Annual Report

You can file your LLC’s Annual Report online or by mail. We recommend the online filing as it’s easier to complete.

File online: Go to the state’s online filing page, and look up your LLC in the database. Then complete your LLC’s Annual Report online and make your $25 payment.

File by mail: Download and complete the Wisconsin Annual Report (Form 5). Then prepare a check or money order for $25 payable to “State of Wisconsin”. Mail your Annual Report and payment to:

Department of Financial Institutions
PO Box 93348
Milwaukee, WI 53293-0348

After your Limited Liability Company is formed

After your Wisconsin LLC is formed, there are some final steps to consider.

LLC business bank account

You’ll want to open a business bank account for an LLC. This makes accounting and record-keeping much easier for your business finances.

Having a separate business bank account also maintains your personal liability protection by keeping your business finances separate from your personal finances.

Business credit card

The bank will give you a debit card after opening a business bank account for an LLC. However, you may also want to get a business credit card to earn rewards. This is also helpful in keeping business expenses separate from personal expenses.

Website and domain name

You can check if your business name is available as a domain name. You can search your domain name with GoDaddy below.

Find a domain name


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Wisconsin business licenses and permits

Business LicenseWisconsin doesn’t have a state-level general business license requirement. But depending on where your LLC is located, your LLC may need to get a local business license or permit.

And certain industries and activities may need a state license. For example, if you sell products in Wisconsin, you may need to collect sales tax and have a sales tax license.

You can learn more on our Wisconsin business license page.

Some people choose to hire a company to research their license requirements. If you want to hire someone, we recommend IncFile.

Business phone

If you’d rather not use your mobile or home phone number for your business, you can get a business phone number from Phone.com.

Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI)

If you have any questions about starting an LLC in Wisconsin, you can contact the DFI.

Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
Corporations Bureau
608-261-7577
Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm Central Time

Wisconsin LLC Frequently Asked Questions

It costs $130 to start an LLC in Wisconsin if you file your LLC online. This is the fee paid to file the LLC Articles of Organization. If you file your Articles of Organization by mail, the fee is $170.

If you have an LLC formed in another state, but you want to do business in Wisconsin, you’ll need to register that out-of-state LLC in Wisconsin. This is known as a Foreign LLC registration. You can find Foreign LLC fees on this page: Foreign LLC fees by state.

It takes about 5 business days (1 week) to get an LLC online in Wisconsin. This is the time it takes for the state to process your Articles of Organization filing.

You can get an LLC in Wisconsin by filing online or by mail. We recommend the online filing as the approval time is faster since you don’t have to wait for documents to arrive by mail.

Yes, you can file your LLC online in Wisconsin. The Articles of Organization filing fee is $130.

Check the Articles of Organization section above, where we have step-by-step instructions for online filings.

The first benefit of an LLC is protecting your personal assets. Meaning, if your business is sued, your personal assets – like your home, cars, and bank accounts – are protected.

This protection applies to all LLC owners (called LLC Members). It doesn’t matter if you have a Single-Member LLC or Multi-Member LLC. All of the LLC owners are protected from the business debts and liabilities of the business.

This type of protection wouldn’t apply if you operate as a Sole Proprietorship or Partnership. With these types of informal business structures, the owners aren’t protected in the event of a lawsuit. For that reason, Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) are a much more common business structure than a Sole Proprietorship or Partnership.

Another benefit is LLC pass-through taxation. This means the LLC itself doesn’t pay federal income taxes. Instead, the profits “pass through” to the LLC Members. And the Members report and pay the taxes on their personal tax return.

And Wisconsin LLC taxes are very similar, since the state honors the federal tax treatment of LLCs. To learn more, please see How are LLCs taxed.

We recommend having a Wisconsin LLC Operating Agreement.

An Operating Agreement is an “internal document”, meaning you just need to keep a copy for yourself and give a copy to any other LLC Members.

You don’t need to send your Operating Agreement to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. You also don’t need to send it to the IRS.

Operating Agreements may be required when you open a business bank account. We recommend calling the bank ahead of time to see which documents you’ll need.

Whether or not you need a business license will depend on where your LLC is located and what industry it’s in. There’s also a chance you might not need a business license at all.

Please see our business license information above for details.

Yes, you’re required to have a Wisconsin Registered Agent for your LLC.

A Registered Agent is a person or company who accepts legal documents (called Service of Process) and state notices for your business entity. Registered Agents are required to have a physical address in the state of Wisconsin (called a Registered Office address).

You can be your own Registered Agent, or a friend or family member can be the Registered Agent for your LLC. That person just needs to be a resident of the state of Wisconsin, and have a physical street address in the state.

If you, a friend, or family member don’t have a physical street address in Wisconsin, you’ll need to look into Registered Agent Services. The company we recommend is Northwest Registered Agent.

Yes, Wisconsin is a great state to be a small business owner and start an LLC. Wisconsin has quick approval times and helpful representatives at the DFI if you have questions. And Wisconsin doesn’t have a general state business license requirement for LLCs.

However, the most important factors in deciding where to start a business are where you live and where you’re doing business.

Meaning, if you live in or do business in Wisconsin, then you should start your business in Wisconsin. While many websites talk about tax rates and advantages of certain states, none of that applies if it’s not the state where you live and do business.

For example, if you form an LLC in Florida, but live in and conduct business in Wisconsin, you’ll also need to register your Florida LLC in Wisconsin (and pay extra fees). And you’ll end up paying Wisconsin taxes anyway. This ends up leading to more costs and more headaches with no advantages.

In summary, if you live in and conduct business in Wisconsin, then yes, Wisconsin is a good state to start a business. If you don’t live in and do business in Wisconsin, then no, Wisconsin isn’t a good state to start a business.

For more information, please see Best state to form an LLC.

Matt Horwitz
Matt Horwitz
Founder & Educator, LLC University®
Matt Horwitz has been the leading expert on LLC education for the past decade. He founded LLC University in 2010 after realizing people needed simple and actionable instructions to start an LLC that other companies weren't offering. He's cited by Entrepreneur Magazine, Yahoo Finance, and the US Chamber of Commerce, and was featured by CNBC and InventRight.
 
Matt holds a Bachelor's Degree in business from Drexel University with a concentration in business law. He performs extensive research and analysis to convert state laws into simple instructions anyone can follow to form their LLC - all for free! Read more about Matt Horwitz and LLC University.

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