How to Start an LLC in Wisconsin (Step-by-Step) 2024 Guide

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Starting a Wisconsin LLC, step-by-step

Starting an LLC in Wisconsin costs $130. And it takes 1 day to get an LLC.

How to start an LLCHere are the 5 steps to forming an LLC in Wisconsin:

  1. Choose an LLC Name
  2. Select a Registered Agent
  3. File Articles of Organization
  4. Create an Operating Agreement
  5. Get an EIN

If you want to form your LLC yourself, follow our free guide below.

If you want someone to take care of it for you, we recommend hiring Northwest Registered Agent

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

(We recommend Northwest. We've reviewed all the top companies in the industry. And Northwest is our #1 pick for prices, customer support, and address privacy. Check out Northwest vs LegalZoom to learn more.)

How much does it cost to start an LLC in Wisconsin?

It costs $130 to start an LLC in Wisconsin.

And then it costs $25 per year.

What are these fees for?

  • The $130 is to file the Articles of Organization – the document that creates an LLC.
  • The $25 per year is for your Annual Report – a mandatory filing that keeps your LLC in good standing.

To learn more about LLC Costs, see LLC Costs in Wisconsin.

How long does it take to get an LLC in Wisconsin?

If you file your LLC by mail, it will be approved in 5 business days (plus mail time).

But if you file online, your LLC will be approved immediately.

Please see How long does it take to get an LLC in Wisconsin to check for any delays.

Here are the steps to forming an LLC in Wisconsin

1. Search your LLC Name

LLC namesSearch your Wisconsin LLC Name to make sure it’s available in the state.

You need to do this because two businesses in the state can’t have the same name.

First, search your business name and compare it to existing businesses in the state. You can make sure the LLC Name you want is unique from existing businesses using the Corporate Records Search.

Second, familiarize yourself with the naming rules in Wisconsin (so your LLC gets approved).

We’ll explain both in more detail here: Wisconsin LLC Name.

2. Choose a Registered Agent

Registered Agent

The next step is to choose a Registered Agent.

A Wisconsin Registered Agent is a person or company who accepts legal documents and state notices on behalf of your Limited Liability Company (LLC).

Who can be a Registered Agent?

You have 3 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.

And the Registered Agent’s name and address will be listed on public records.

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

We recommend Northwest Registered Agent

Our favorite feature about Northwest is they’ll let you use their office address throughout your LLC filing. This way, you can keep your address off public records.

They’ll also scan any mail sent to your LLC and upload it to your online account.

Northwest has excellent customer service, and they’re who we trust to be our own Registered Agent.

Special offer: Hire Northwest to form your LLC ($39 + state fee), and you'll get a free year of Registered Agent service.

(Why is Northwest the best? Read our Northwest Registered Agent review)

3. File LLC Articles of Organization

Articles of OrganizationTo start an LLC, you need to file paperwork called the Articles of Organization with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI).

It costs $130 to file Articles of Organization online.

This is a one-time fee to create your LLC.

If you want to file this yourself, see our step-by-step guide to the Wisconsin Articles of Organization.

Or, you can hire a company to do it for you.

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

(Learn why Northwest is #1 in Northwest vs LegalZoom)

4. Create a Wisconsin LLC Operating Agreement

Operating AgreementAn LLC Operating Agreement serves as a “companion” document to the Articles of Organization.

The Articles of Organization creates your LLC, and the Operating Agreement shows who owns the LLC.

Additionally, some banks require an Operating Agreement when you open an LLC bank account.

Having an Operating Agreement will also be very helpful if you ever end up in court. Reason being, it helps prove that your LLC is being run properly.

That’s why we recommend that all LLCs have an Operating Agreement – including Single-Member LLCs.

Furthermore, an Operating Agreement is an “internal document“. Meaning, you don’t need to file it with the state or the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). Just keep a copy with your business records.

You can download a free template below.

Then, learn how to fill it out by watching our step-by-step Wisconsin Operating Agreement video.

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

(What's better? See Member-managed vs Manager-managed LLC)

5. Get an EIN for your LLC

The next step is to get a Wisconsin EIN Number from the IRS for your LLC.

Note: An EIN Number is also called a Federal Tax ID Number or Federal Employer Identification Number.

EIN Number for an LLCAn EIN Number is used to:

  • identify your LLC for tax purposes
  • open a business bank account
  • apply for business licenses and permits
How much does an EIN cost?

Getting an EIN Number from the IRS is completely free.

How long does it take to get an EIN?

If you apply online, it takes 15 minutes.

If you apply by mail or fax, it can take 1-3 months.

How can I get an EIN?

US Citizens/US Residents: If you have an SSN or ITIN, you can apply for an EIN online. Follow these instructions: Apply for an EIN online.

Non-US Residents: You can’t get an EIN online, but you can still get one by fax or by mail. Follow these instructions: How to get an EIN without an SSN or ITIN.

6. File your Annual Report

LLC Annual Report

All Wisconsin LLCs must file an Annual Report every year.

The Annual Report keeps your LLC in good standing with the state.

How much does a Wisconsin Annual Report cost?

The Annual Report filing fee is $25 per year.

When is the Annual Report due?

The state uses a quarterly system to determine the due date for your report.

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, 2024, your first Annual Report is due by March 31, 2025.

How do I file my LLC Annual Report?

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

You can follow our step-by-step guide for filing your Wisconsin LLC Annual Report.

What do I do after my LLC is approved?

After your LLC is approved, there are some additional steps.

LLC business bank account

You’ll want to open a business bank account for your 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. This is because it keeps your business finances separate from your personal finances.

Wisconsin business licenses and permits

Business LicenseGood news, Wisconsin doesn’t have a state general business license.

However, depending on where your LLC is located, you may need a local business license or permit.

For example, if you want to start a daycare, you may need a business license from the city or county.

You can learn more on our Wisconsin Business License page.

File and pay taxes

LLCs don’t pay federal taxes. Instead, the LLC Members pay the taxes for the LLC.

Said another way, the owners pay taxes for the LLC as a part of their personal tax return.

How will my LLC be taxed?

By default, a Wisconsin LLC is taxed by the IRS based on the number of owners your LLC has:

  • A Single-Member LLC is taxed like a Sole Proprietorship.
  • A Multi-Member LLC is taxed like a Partnership.

Alternatively, you can ask the IRS to tax your LLC like a C-Corporation or S-Corporation.

Married Couples: Instead of having your LLC taxed as a Partnership, married couples can elect to be taxed as a Single-Member LLC (aka Qualified Joint Venture). This is allowed in Wisconsin because Wisconsin is a community property state.

Besides federal taxes, there are also state and local income taxes – and sales tax. Learn more in Wisconsin LLC Taxes.

How to Start an LLC in Wisconsin FAQs

Can I start an LLC online in Wisconsin?

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

When you start your LLC online, it will be approved immediately.

What are the benefits of an LLC?

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.

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 popular business structure.

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 pay the taxes on their personal tax return.

And Wisconsin state income taxes are very similar, since the state honors the federal tax treatment of your LLC.

To learn more, please see How are LLCs taxed.

Is Wisconsin a good state to start an LLC?

Whether Wisconsin is a good state to start an LLC depends on where you live – and where you’re doing business.

Meaning, if you live in or do business in Wisconsin, then you should start your LLC 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 Delaware, but live in and conduct business in Wisconsin, you’ll also need to register your Delaware 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.

Real estate exception: If you’re purchasing real estate outside of Wisconsin, you should form your LLC in the state where the property is located.

For more information, please see Best State to Form an LLC.

What is the difference between a Domestic LLC, a Foreign LLC, and a PLLC?

The main differences between Domestic LLCs, Foreign LLCs, and Professional LLCs are where they are formed and their business purpose.

A Domestic Limited Liability Company is an LLC that is formed in its “home state”, meaning, where the business owner lives and does business.

For example, if you live in and do business in Georgia, you would form your Domestic LLC in Georgia.

A Foreign Limited Liability Company is an LLC that is formed in a state that isn’t its home state. In this case, the term “foreign” simply means that the LLC is foreign to its “home state”.

For example, if you live in and do business in Georgia, you would form your Domestic LLC in Georgia. If you later expand into Florida, you would register your existing Georgia LLC as a Foreign LLC in Florida.

Said another way, LLCs are created at the state-level.

So if you want your LLC to do business in two separate states, you have to form or register an LLC in both states.

This works by forming a Domestic LLC in your home state, and a Foreign LLC in the other state.

What is a PLLC?

A Professional Limited Liability Company (PLLC) is a type of LLC formed for the purpose of providing “professional services”.

In this case, “professional” refers to business types that require special permissions (like a license, registration, or certification from the state) in order to do business legally.

For example, architects, attorneys, and social work counselors, doctors, and veterinarians often form their business practices as PLLCs.

You can read more about PLLCs, their availability, and their stricter requirements in: What’s a Professional LLC?

And for more information on Foreign and Domestic LLCs, please see:

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

Matt Horwitz
Matt Horwitz
Matt Horwitz is the leading expert on LLC education, and has been teaching for 15 years. He founded LLC University in 2010 after realizing people needed simple and actionable instructions to start an LLC. 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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