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LLC Wisconsin Experts and 5 Steps to Your WI LLC

Your dream of starting a business in Wisconsin is within reach. Once you have an idea for a business, you want to know how to get it filed with the state. Most small business owners start out as a limited liability company (LLC).

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Starting a new business in Wisconsin can feel overwhelming. What are the steps your business needs to take to operate? How much does an LLC cost in Wisconsin? To protect your business, yourself, and the other LLC members, there are specific steps to take in Wisconsin when setting up your LLC.

This guide teaches you how to start an LLC in Wisconsin. It will also help you with each step of the journey.

The Process Of Setting Up a Wisconsin LLC

An infographic that explains how to form an LLC in Wisconsin in 5 Steps

To start a limited liability company in Wisconsin, file your Articles of Organization with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. But before you create an LLC in Wisconsin officially, you’ll need to decide on a name for your business. You’ll also want to appoint a registered agent, and consider creating an operating agreement.

While some steps are more complicated than others, this guide will break down each task so that setting up a Wisconsin limited liability company is a straightforward process. Complete each task, and you’re one step closer to getting your Wisconsin LLC up and running.

We’ll also show you how our services can eliminate the hassles for you when forming an LLC in Wisconsin.

Step 1: Name your Wisconsin LLC

Step 1: Name your Wisconsin Limited Liability Company

Your name must be catchy enough to draw people in. It must also be clever enough for brand representation, and compliant enough for state approval. Your Limited Liability Company name will need to be unique from other existing names in the state to comply with Wisconsin regulations.

Make a list of possible names and then follow the instructions on our Wisconsin Business Entity Search page to see if your desired name is available in the state. Before you begin brainstorming ideas, it might be helpful to check Wisconsin’s detailed guidelines for naming an LLC. You can find the guidelines on the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institution’s website. Note that slight variations in spelling, punctuation, and designation are not enough for Wisconsin recognition.

As with other states, Wisconsin state law mandates that your company’s name end with the proper designator. For LLCs, Wisconsin law provides a few options: Limited Liability Company, Limited Liability Co., LLC, or L.L.C. Whichever one you settle on must appear at the very end of your company’s name.

Reserve a Business Name

Finding an available business name is the first step. You can reserve it to ensure nobody else takes it before moving on to the next steps of the LLC formation process. Wisconsin allows you to reserve a business name for 120 days for a fee. We have a business name reservation service that can handle it for you. As part of the service, we also check to see if your desired name is available.

Find a Web Domain that Matches Your LLC Name

When you’re coming up with a business name, consider whether you can secure a matching domain name. This way, your future website can be easily found online. We have a tool to help you do a preliminary domain name search. Our domain name registration service can help you secure the online name that will best serve your company.

Get a DBA for Your Wisconsin LLC

Something else to think about is whether you’ll want to use a trade name or “Doing Business As” (DBA) for your Wisconsin limited liability company. A DBA is simply a name you use for any business structure that isn’t its legal name. To get a DBA in Wisconsin, visit Wisconsin’s Department of Financial Institution’s website and search for your new DBA name to make sure it isn’t already in use. If the name is available, you can file online via the same site. 

Consider Getting a Trademark Early On

Finally, visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office website to make sure your business name or logo isn’t already federally trademarked. Trademarks can also happen at the state level. To find out more and/or apply for a state trademark, go to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions website.

Step 2: Appoint a Registered Agent in Wisconsin

Step 2: Appoint a registered agent in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Registered Agent Requirement

Next, you’ll need to choose a person or entity to be the point of contact for all legal matters. In other words, appoint a Wisconsin registered agent. If your Limited Liability Company is facing a lawsuit or subpoena, the state of Wisconsin will deliver all necessary documents to your registered agent.

It is possible to be your company’s registered agent; however, it’s often better to outsource the role. You can choose any person who lives in the state of Wisconsin or any business entity that has the authorization to do business in Wisconsin, as long as they also have a physical street address in the state. Hiring an outside registered agent service ensures all of these requirements are met. It’s also an affordable way to avoid awkward encounters in front of customers.

The Benefits of Using a Registered Agent Service

Some additional benefits of hiring an outside registered agent service like ours include:

Step 3: File Wisconsin Articles of Organization

Step 3: File Wisconsin LLC Articles of Organization

Picking a name and a registered agent isn’t enough to make your business official yet. To make it an official Limited Liability Company in WI, you’ll need to complete your Articles of Organization. Once completed. file it with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. Filing government paperwork like this can be a nerve-racking experience for many people, which is why we’re here. With our business formation plans, we handle the filing for you to make sure it’s done correctly the first time. But, although we can handle this for you, we’ll show you how the process works below.

Articles of Organization Required Information

There are a few things you will need to fill out the form. Make sure you have the following on hand before you begin:

Submitting Your Paperwork

If you prefer to fill out the document on paper and mail it in, you will be responsible for paying a higher non-refundable fee than you would if using the online system. While sending your paperwork via mail will take about five days to process, you can pay an optional fee for expedited service. With expedited service of your WI LLC Articles of Organization, processing occurs by the close of the first business day following the date of receipt. We can handle this expediting process for you with our faster filing speeds service.

Keep Your Wisconsin LLC Paperwork Organized

If you have us handle filing your Articles of Organization, once the state approves your Limited Liability Company, your paperwork will be available from your ZenBusiness dashboard, where you can keep it and other important paperwork digitally organized. 

Once you get your paperwork back from the state approving your new LLC, you’ll want to keep it in a safe location along with your other important documents. These documents can include your operating agreement, LLC member certificates, contracts, compliance checklists, etc. We offer a customized business kit to help you keep these important documents organized and looking professional.

Step 4: Create a Wisconsin Operating Agreement

Step 4: Create an operating agreement

Limited Liability Company operating agreements cover the rules your company will follow, how finances will be handled, how decisions will be made. However, not every state requires LLCs to have one, including Wisconsin. 

Considering Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions doesn’t require LLC owners to draft an operating agreement, you may feel drafting one is unnecessary — especially if you’re starting your LLC alone. But this isn’t always the case. Operating agreements can also be used to outline your company’s fate in the event of your demise. They can protect you and your assets if your company is facing dissolution or bankruptcy. If you’re creating a Limited Liability Company with other members, each involved party will need to sign the document, formalizing their agreement to the terms.

Since the state of Wisconsin doesn’t require an operating agreement, there is no form to fill out and file with the Department of Financial Institutions. Our customizable template can help you create your LLC operating agreement if you’re unsure where to start.

Step 5: Apply for an EIN

Step 5: Apply for an EIN

Before your Limited Liability Company formation can be finalized, you’ll need to obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). FEIN, also known as an EIN, is a nine-digit number required if you’re a multi-member LLC or have employees. An Employer Identification Number is required for tax and financial paperwork, including filing taxes, hiring new employees, and opening business bank accounts.

You can apply for your LLC’s EIN through the Internal Revenue Service website, by mail, or by fax. If you don’t like dealing with IRS we can get it for you. Our EIN service is quick and eliminates the hassle.

Important Post-Formation Steps

Once you’ve secured an EIN, you’ll be able to open a business bank account, apply for a business credit card and hire employees. Having separate accounts for your business and your personal banking is critical for sorting out your finances at tax time and helps you avoid commingling funds. Commingling funds can not only make your taxes more difficult, but it could also be used against you if someone takes you to court to challenge whether you and your LLC are truly separate entities (i.e., they want to sue you for not just your business assets, but also your personal assets).

Open a Business Bank Account for Your LLC

We offer a discounted bank account for your new business. This allows for unlimited transactions, online banking, a debit card, and more. When you want to authorize others in your business to use the account, we offer a banking resolution template to simplify the process.

For further help managing your new business’s finances, check out ZenBusiness Money. It can help you create invoices, receive payments, transfer money, and manage clients all in one place. 

Starting a LLC in Wisconsin FAQs

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

    Starting an LLC in Wisconsin is relatively affordable. The state fees for forming an LLC can range from $130 to $185, depending on factors such as your method of filing and whether you choose to reserve your business name. Note that fees change over time, so check the Department of Financial Institutions website for the most recent fee schedule.

  • What are the benefits of an LLC in Wisconsin?

    LLCs aren’t the only type of business you can form in Wisconsin. However, 90% of our customers choose to form an LLC over all other types. Compared to corporations, limited partnerships, and other forms of entities, LLCs come with inviting benefits.

    Forming a Wisconsin LLC means you’ll reap the following benefits:

    • Personal asset protection: Your personal liability will be separate from your business liability and debts.
    • Tax incentives: You’ll only pay personal taxes rather than both personal and corporate taxes with an LLC. In Wisconsin, in particular, you can take advantage of the Enterprise Zone Tax Credit.
    • Flexible management: You’re not required to have a board of directors or annual meetings as you would in a corporation.
    • Less reporting: Compared to corporations, LLCs have fewer required meetings and reports.

    For a more in-depth look at why an LLC might be a better option for you, see our breakdown of what an LLC is.

  • How is a Wisconsin LLC taxed?

    LLCs are typically considered “pass-through entities,” meaning they are not subject to corporate taxes. Instead, the profits are passed through to the owner’s personal income, and the responsibility to pay taxes falls on the individual. This is unlike most corporations, in which profits are taxed twice, first at the business level and again at the individual shareholder level. This holds for all Wisconsin LLCs — unless you choose to file as a corporation, you will not be required to pay Wisconsin’s corporation income tax. However, your LLC could be subject to various other taxes, including:

    • State employer taxes, if you have employees
    • State unemployment insurance taxes, if you have employees
    • Sales and use tax, if you sell goods
    • Excise tax, if you sell beverages, fuel, cigarettes, or tobacco

    Taxes can be confusing, so if you want to ensure nothing is missed and your business is filing correctly, you may want to work with a trusted professional. Those who purchase any of our plans get a free accounting consultation and tax assessment from our specialists to receive helpful resources and no-obligation recommendations around your bookkeeping, accounting, and tax needs.

  • What is the processing time to form my Wisconsin LLC?

    In about five business days, your Articles of Organization will be processed with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, regardless of your means of filing. For an extra fee, you can have your documents processed by the next business day.

  • Do I need to file an operating agreement with the state of Wisconsin?

    No, you don’t need to file the operating agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. The operating agreement is kept internally by the LLC members. While some states legally require LLCs to have an operating agreement, Wisconsin does not.

  • What tax structure should I choose for my Wisconsin LLC?

    When you get an EIN, you will be informed of the available tax classification options. Most LLCs elect the default tax status and, therefore, are taxed as pass-through entities.

    You can also file as a corporation. This route has its advantages for certain LLCs, but be sure to review each option’s details and consult a tax professional to determine the best one for your business.

  • Does Wisconsin allow a Series LLC?

    A Series LLC is a group of LLCs operating under one “parent” entity. Wisconsin allows a watered-down form of a Series LLC, but it does not specifically provide for a liability shield between the different series.

  • Which licenses and insurance are required for an LLC in Wisconsin?

    Determining which business licenses and/or permits your LLC needs requires some research because licensing can be industry-specific and happen at the federal, state, and local levels. If you don’t have the time or inclination to do all this research, or if you just want peace of mind knowing that your business has all the licenses and permits it’s legally required to have, our business license report service can do the work for you.

    When it comes to insurance, Wisconsin requires every small business with employees to provide workers’ compensation insurance. You’re also required to have commercial auto insurance for any vehicle you use in connection with your business. See a qualified insurance agent to see what your LLC’s specific insurance needs are.

  • Do I need to renew my LLC in Wisconsin?

    Formally, there is no renewal requirement in the state of Wisconsin for an LLC or any other business structure whether it is a sole proprietorship or corporation. However, all business entities are required to file an annual report with Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. There is a filing fee associated with the annual report that varies for different types of entities. If you are filing for a domestic Wisconsin LLC the fee is $25. For a foreign LLC authorized to conduct business in the state the fee is $80.

  • How to dissolve a Wisconsin LLC?

    Before starting the dissolution process, the members of an LLC should vote to dissolve it. For the subsequent steps, please refer to our Wisconsin business dissolution guide.

  • Can I use an existing LLC from another state to do business in Wisconsin?

    Before you begin using your foreign LLC to conduct business in Wisconsin, it must be authorized with the state. This requires filing for and obtaining a Certificate of Authority.

Wisconsin Business Resources

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