Wisconsin Business License Requirements for an LLC

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A Wisconsin business license gives your Limited Liability Company (LLC) permission to operate in a certain location or within a specific industry.

We can’t walk you through the license applications step-by-step, because every business is unique. But we provide helpful resources like:

  • information about state licensing rules
  • instructions for researching municipal licenses

And if you want to just hire a company to do the research for you, we have a recommendation below.

Wisconsin Business License Requirements

Business License

After you form a Wisconsin LLC, you may need to obtain a business license or permit.

Your requirements are determined by the industry you are in and where your Wisconsin Limited Liability Company is located.

Because of the large number of industries and all of the municipalities in Wisconsin, it’s not possible for us to explain them all. However, you can use the search tools below, call your local municipality, or hire a company for help.

Tip: Save time by hiring an expert. We recommend using IncFile ($99) to handle the business license research for you.

How to get a Business License in Wisconsin

You can obtain a Wisconsin business license by applying with the relevant licensing or regulatory agency. The agency you apply with will depend on where your business is located and what business activities it engages in.

The application typically requires basic information, such as your LLC name, EIN Number, business address, and contact information. Many also include a questionnaire that asks about your business activity.

There are three main licensing jurisdictions and license types:

  • State licensing
  • Local licensing, such as county, city, township, etc.
  • Federal licensing

Does Wisconsin Require a Business License?

That depends on where your business is located, and what it does.

There are two types of state-level business licenses:

  • general business license
  • occupational license

Wisconsin General Business License

Some states have a general business license requirement, which means all businesses operating in those states must have the license, regardless of what they do.

But good news, Wisconsin doesn’t require a general business license.

Meaning, your Wisconsin LLC doesn’t need a general state business license. But depending on what type of business you run, your LLC might need an occupational license (aka “industry specific” license).

Wisconsin Occupational License

Most states have occupational business license requirements. This means a license or permit may be required depending on what your business does or what your occupation is. For example, if you sell used cars, or run a hair salon, you may need an occupational business license. But a license may not be required for other types of businesses.

The Department of Safety and Professional Services: A-Z Professions List helps you determine if your Wisconsin business needs an occupational license or permit, and which agency to contact about applying for the license.

You can also contact the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) with questions.

Note: Wisconsin business licenses are not issued by the Department of Financial Institutions. The Department of Financial Institutions is responsible for business entity administration, for example Limited Liability Company formation.

Municipal Business License

Municipal business licenses can be issued by the city, town, county, parish, township, borough, etc. We refer to all of these as a “municipality” to keep things simple.

There are two types of municipal business licenses:

  • general business license
  • industry-specific licenses

For example, if a municipality has a general business license requirement, all businesses operating in that municipality must have the license, regardless of what they do.

And if a municipality has industry-specific business licenses, a license or permit may be required depending on what your business does. For example, if you operate a food truck, or run a daycare, you may need an industry-specific municipal business license. Or if you’re purchasing or leasing real estate, you may need a zoning permit.

But a license may not be required for other types of businesses, like making wedding invitation templates or offering marketing consulting.

You can contact your municipality to check on their local licensing requirements:

Wisconsin Sales Tax License

If you sell products to consumers in Wisconsin, you may need to collect sales tax and have a sales tax permit. This is sometimes referred to as a Wisconsin Seller’s Permit.

Note: This requirement will apply whether you sell products online or in a physical location in Wisconsin.

To get a Wisconsin Seller’s Permit, you’ll need to first register for business tax using the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) Business Tax Registration link. The initial fee is $20 and covers the first two years. After that, the renewal fee is $10, paid every two years.

For additional information about the Business Tax Registration, Seller’s Permit, and the Sales Tax License:

Tip: Save time by hiring an expert. We recommend using TaxJar. They'll help you register for, collect, and pay sales tax.

Do I need any federal business licenses?

Most businesses in Wisconsin don’t need a federal business license. However, certain industries do need federal licenses:

If your business…Contact this agency about business licenses
Transports animals, plants or biotechnology over state linesDepartment of Agriculture
Imports or exports animal products, wildlife, or products derived from wildlife (including fish)Fish and Wildlife Service
Fishes commerciallyFish and Wildlife Service
Broadcasts on radio or TVFederal Communications Commission
Makes alcohol and sells it at a retail storeTobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
Makes or sells firearms, ammunition or explosivesBureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives
Transports cargo by seaFederal Maritime Commission
Transports goods or people by airFederal Aviation Administration

Check out the Small Business Administration’s Licenses and Permits page for a full list of industries with federal license requirements.

If your business isn’t one of these special cases, then the only federal requirements are that your LLC get a Wisconsin EIN Number (aka Federal Employer Identification Number) and that you file taxes.

Wisconsin Business License FAQs

How much does a business license cost in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin doesn’t have a general business license, so there are no fees there.

However, your business may need a state-level occupational license or municipal-level license or permit to operate. The filing fee for licenses will vary depending on where you’re doing business and what industry you’re in.

And you might not need a business license at all!

Unfortunately, we can’t say what your LLC’s business license costs would be, because it depends on several factors and the cost of Wisconsin licenses varies.

See LLC Cost in Wisconsin to learn more about LLC fees.

Is an LLC considered a business license?

No, an LLC is not a business license. They are two completely different things.

An LLC is a type of business structure created by filing a document with the state government.

And a business license is a document, which gives a person, or a company, the right to transact business. It doesn’t create an LLC.

How long does it take to get a business tax registration?

If you register online with the Wisconsin DOR (Business Tax Registration), you will receive your completed packet via mail within 7-10 business days of submitting your LLC’s information. You should also receive an email with your account numbers within 1-2 business days.

The Online Business Tax Registration system requires you to already have an EIN before applying for a business permit or certificate. You can get an EIN from the IRS online – and for free.

Does a Sole Proprietor need a business license in Wisconsin?

Sometimes a new business owner chooses to operate as a Sole Proprietorship in Wisconsin instead of an LLC.

Even if you’re just trying out a business idea as a Sole Proprietorship, you may still be subject to license requirements at the state and municipal levels.

Does the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions provide a business license?

No, the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) doesn’t handle licensing requirements. Instead, they manage business entity formation and registration. For example, depending on business entity type, business owners file different paperwork with the DFI to create their business entity.

For more information, or to determine if there is a Wisconsin business license cost for your business, we recommend contacting the Wisconsin Department of Revenue and/or your local government agency. For example, your local town or city government will have information about any local licenses.

How to start an LLC in Wisconsin

Here are the steps to starting an LLC in Wisconsin:

  1. Select a business name for your Wisconsin LLC
  2. Choose your Registered Agent
  3. File the LLC Articles of Organization with the state
  4. Complete and sign an LLC Operating Agreement
  5. Get a Tax ID Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  6. Open an LLC bank account
  7. Check whether you need business licenses or tax permits in Wisconsin

Matt Horwitz
Matt Horwitz
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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