How to File an LLC in Wisconsin

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Swyft Filings is committed to providing accurate, reliable information to help you make informed decisions for your business. That's why our content is written and edited by professional editors, writers, and subject matter experts. Learn more about how Swyft Filings works, our editorial team and standards, what our customers think of us, and more on our trust page.

Catherine Cohen
Written by Catherine Cohen
Written byCatherine Cohen
Updated January 30, 2024
Edited by Carlos Serrano
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What type of business should you form?

That question swirls around most entrepreneurs’ heads when setting up their companies. An S or C corp can seem too complex for a small business, and a sole proprietorship leaves you personally liable for the company’s legal issues. A Wisconsin LLC offers the perfect middle ground.

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Key Takeaways

  • A Wisconsin LLC offers the perfect middle ground between an S or C corporation and a sole proprietorship, offering the former's protection and the latter's freedom.

  • Wisconsin requires business owners to submit requests to reserve a business name through physical mail. It doesn’t offer online filing of this specific form.

  • Suppose you’re a student entrepreneur looking to file an LLC in Wisconsin. In that case, the state provides a fee waiver if you follow the correct filing procedures.

What Is an LLC Formation?

A limited liability company (LLC) is a business structure offering liability protection to owners. LLC formation protects your assets from being claimed to repay debts and liabilities. It also provides some personal protection if the company faces legal challenges.

Think of an LLC as a hybrid between a corporation and a sole proprietorship.

You still have to pay sales tax and state fees for formation when you have an LLC. However, you don’t have to pay a separate business tax as you would with a corporation. Thus, many entrepreneurs choose this type of business structure for tax purposes.

An LLC also offers more control over how your business operates. You don’t have to meet a defined corporate structure, allowing you to choose who runs the company and how it operates. Furthermore, you’re not beholden to the demands of shareholders yet still can welcome individual investors on board.

In Wisconsin, you form an LLC by submitting several forms, allowing with state fees, to the Wisconsin Secretary of State.

Why Should You Form an LLC?

Having an LLC comes with several benefits when compared to a sole proprietorship, S corp, or C corp:

  • They provide personal liability protection from debts or legal issues

  • They’re easier to form than corporations due to having few regulatory requirements

  • They provide flexible leadership structures

  • They provide pass-through taxation, meaning owners pay taxes on business income only once, through personal taxes

Though these benefits appeal to many entrepreneurs, there are also some downsides to LLC formation you must consider:

  • They’re more complicated to form compared to sole proprietorships or general partnerships 

  • Ownership of an LLC is often harder to transfer compared to S or C corporations

  • Wisconsin law requires you to file an annual report to maintain an LLC, with annual filing fee of $25 for online submissions or $40 for paper forms[1]

  • You must include the words “Limited Liability Company” or one of its abbreviations in your primary business name

Considering these advantages and disadvantages, you should consider forming an LLC if you want a combination of protection and flexibility. However, a different structure may be better if you want simplicity or wish to make ownership transfers easier.

Welcome to Wisconsin Sign

Step-By-Step Guide To Starting Your Wisconsin LLC

Each state has its own requirements and filing fee that you must pay to form your LLC.

You’re here because you want to form an LLC in Wisconsin. Our step-by-step guide demonstrates this, from choosing a name to getting the appropriate licenses.

Step 1: Choose a Business Name for Your LLC

Before you can form your business, you need to choose an LLC name. That’s not as easy as it sounds because your name has to be unique to your business. Selecting a name already used by another Wisconsin business opens you up to trademark disputes or could confuse your customers.

As strange as it sounds, choosing your business name is often the most challenging part of forming an LLC. This four-stage process helps you create, reserve, and register your name while avoiding common challenges.

Before committing to a name, you need to know that it’s available for use in Wisconsin.

Thankfully, you don’t have to spend an eternity reading phone directories and researching the name online. The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (WDFI) has a database you can use to search for other companies.[2]

Enter the database and enter your proposed LLC name. If it already exists, the database pulls up the existing company’s record so you can determine its status. In some cases, the search may reveal that the current company is out of business, which makes it possible for you to claim the name.

It’s also worth searching for any trade names you intend to use. These are simplified “doing business as” (DBA) names that are easier to use than your LLC name.

For example, you may name your LLC “Wisconsin Real Estate Experts Limited Liability Company.” However, you prefer to trade as “Real Estate Wis-Kids.” In that case, you must search for every possible name you’ll use to ensure they’re available.

Stage 2 — Check and Register Domain Names

Most modern companies need websites. A shocking 76% of people research your online presence before they buy.[3] A website is part of that presence, meaning not having one may make your company seem unprofessional.

Once you have an idea for a name, check to see if it’s available online.

This process is straightforward. You can type your desired domain name into your web browser to see what turns up. Or, you can search for the domain’s availability using a domain name registration service, such as GoDaddy.

Don’t purchase the domain name when you discover it’s available. You need permission from the State of Wisconsin to use your desired LLC name first.

Stage 3 — Complete a Name Reservation Application

You need to reserve your business name if you’re not ready to form your LLC as soon as you submit your formation documents (more on that in Step 2).

Doing so requires Wisconsin’s Name Reservation Application.[4] This form allows you to reserve your desired LLC name for a maximum of 120 days in return for a $15 filing fee. If you wish to expedite the application process, you can pay an additional $25 to process the form faster.

Unlike many other states, Wisconsin doesn’t allow you to submit this form online. Instead, you must submit the form, along with a check for your filing fee, to the following address:

Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions

4822 Madison Yards Way

North Tower

Madison, WI 53705

A successful application clears the way for you to purchase your domain name. Buying a domain before you reserve your LLC name could lead to wasted money if you don’t get the name you want.

Stage 4 — Apply for Trademarks

It would be best if you protected your LLC name and any trade names, identifying marks, and logos associated with your business. Though not required to form your LLC, trademarks give you legal recourse if another company uses your name or identifying marks.

You can apply for trademarks via the WDFI website. Each application costs $15 to file, with the trademark being valid for 10 years from the date of its creation. You can apply to renew a trademark up to six months before the 10-year period expires.[5]

Step 2: Fill Out Wisconsin Articles of Organization

With your name reserved, you’re ready to make your LLC official with the state of Wisconsin. Your next step is to file Articles of Organization. State law requires you to file this form to remain in good standing. You can’t do business in Wisconsin if you’re not in good standing.

You have three options with the Wisconsin Articles of Organization:

  • Domestic LLC

  • Foreign LLC

  • Student Entrepreneur LLC

You can file each online via the WDFI website. Alternatively, you can send your forms, along with the appropriate filing fee, to the below address:

State of WI-Dept. of Financial Institutions

PO Box 93348

Milwaukee WI


Domestic LLC Articles of Organization

When filing for a domestic LLC, you must complete the Articles of Organization Limited Liability Company form. State fees are $130 if you submit the form online or $170 if you send a physical form. You can also pay an additional $25 for expedited service.[6]

Have the following information ready before you start the form:

  • The proposed name of your new LLC

  • A principal office address

  • The details of your registered agent, including their name, email address, and registered office

  • Names and addresses for all LLC organizers

  • Details for the form’s drafter, which is the person who completes the form

  • Payment, either in the form of a check for physical filings or a credit card when filing online

Foreign LLC

A foreign LLC is an existing company formed outside of Wisconsin looking to expand into the state. For example, you may create your LLC in New York, where you sell your goods or services. If you want to start selling in Wisconsin, you must submit the relevant form.

In this case, that form is a Foreign Limited Liability Company Registration Statement. You can only complete this form online and must pay a filing fee of $100. Beyond that, you’ll need the details of the state or country where you formed the business in addition to the information required for the domestic LLC form.[7]

Student Entrepreneur LLC

The state of Wisconsin offers separate Articles of Organization for student entrepreneurs. The form you complete is the same as that for a domestic LLC. The critical difference is that the state waives the filing fee.

However, there’s a pivotal condition to meet to get this waiver.

Student entrepreneurs must file their Articles of Organization via mail. If you file online, you still have to pay the $130 filing fee that domestic LLCs pay.[8] Complete the Student Entrepreneur Articles of Organization Limited Liability Company form if you’re forming your LLC while still a student.[9]

Step 3: Hire a Wisconsin Registered Agent

Your LLC needs a Wisconsin registered agent. It’s a legal requirement if you intend to stay in good standing with the state of Wisconsin.

According to the WDFI website, your registered agent can be any Wisconsin resident aged 18 or over. This includes yourself and your LLC’s employees. A business that offers a registered agent service can also work as your agent.[10]

Your company’s registered agent assumes several responsibilities, including the following:

  • Process crucial legal documents, such as service of process

  • Have an established street address that isn’t a PO Box or mailing service

  • Keep regular business hours to ensure they’re always available to receive mail on your behalf

You enter your chosen agent’s details into your Articles of Organization form. The agent must also consent to take on the role.

Why You Should Use a Registered Agent Service

As mentioned, you can serve as your own registered agent. Doing so saves money and gives you more control over how you receive and process legal documents.

However, serving as your own agent comes with some considerable drawbacks that could affect how you run your business, including the following:

  • Your address is entered into the public record, opening you up to spam mail

  • You may receive a service of process during a client meeting

  • You’ll have to spend time finding an appropriate address if your business is primarily online

  • You won’t be able to operate during irregular hours

Beyond these drawbacks, there’s the simple fact that serving as your own registered agent requires a lot of work. When you’re trying to build a business, getting your focus diverted by a registered agent’s duties will slow you down.

Avoiding that problem is one of the many reasons why you should choose Swyft Filings as your registered agent. Our experts handle all of an agent’s responsibilities for you. Plus, we have the expertise needed to answer any questions you have about the role.

Swyft Filings sets up an online dashboard for each of its clients. You can access that dashboard whenever needed, with our team uploading documents as they arrive. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more about our registered agent services.

Step 4: Create an LLC Operating Agreement

An LLC operating agreement is a contract you form with the members of your LLC business entity. The legally binding document outlines each LLC owner’s roles, responsibilities, and ownership stakes.

Having a written operating agreement is crucial for multi-member LLCs. It provides each member with a legal document to refer to when disputes arise. Furthermore, the owners of single-member LLCs can use these agreements to outline the rules for their companies and prepare for welcoming additional members.

You have two options when creating your operating agreement:

  • Manager-Managed — Only the LLC’s chief owner can make and alter the agreement

  • Member-Managed — All of the LLC owners and members collaborate on the document

The state of Wisconsin doesn’t require LLC business owners to create operating agreements. Still, there are many reasons you may want to draft one for your business entity, including the following:

  • An LLC operating agreement offers proof of ownership

  • An LLC operating agreement reinforces the personal liability protection benefit of an LLC

  • An LLC operating agreement may override some of Wisconsin’s default business laws

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you create an LLC operating agreement. For most, the benefits of having a legal contract outweigh the time required to make the contract.

Step 5: File for an Employer Identification Number and Business Licenses

Your LLC may need a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) to operate legally. Think of the EIN as a Social Security number for your business. It’s a unique code that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses to identify your company for federal tax, business tax, and income tax purposes.

You need an EIN if you have employees or intend to hire employees.[11] Furthermore, many financial institutions require you to have an EIN before they let you open a business bank account.

You must complete Form SS-4 to apply for your EIN. You can send this form to the IRS using the following methods:

  • The web

  • Mail

  • Fax

International applicants, such as foreign entities filing for an EIN in the United States, can also call 267-941-1099 to apply by phone.[12]

Business Licenses in Wisconsin

Neither the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions nor the Wisconsin Department of Revenue requires a general business license from your LLC. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t need any business licenses.

The nature of your business affects whether you need a license.

Occupational Licenses

Wisconsin has occupational licenses for specific professions, such as hairdressing. These jobs typically require the owner or their employees to have particular qualifications.

You can learn more about which professions need occupational licenses from Wisconsin’s Department of Safety and Professional Services website.[13]

Wisconsin Sales Tax License

If you sell tangible goods or services in Wisconsin, you have to pay sales tax on anything you sell. You must have a sales tax permit to pay these state taxes, which is where the Wisconsin Sales Tax License comes in.

You have to complete business tax registration via the Wisconsin Department of Revenue’s online portal to apply for a Wisconsin Sales Tax License.[14] You must also pay a filing fee of $20 to cover your first two years of business, followed by a $10 annual renewal fee.

Milwaukee Wisconsin Market

Let Us Handle Your LLC Paperwork

LLC formation is a time-consuming task. As an entrepreneur trying to start a small business, you may want to dedicate less time to filing.

That means you need an LLC formation service.

At Swyft Filings, we’ve helped over 250,000 businesses handle corporate and LLC formation since 2015. A personalized service ensures your Wisconsin LLC is in the right hands. And with our help, you can apply for an LLC online in as little as 10 minutes.

Would you like to learn more?

Contact our team today to discover how we can help you with LLC formation in Wisconsin.

Unlock Your Business’s Potential With an LLC:

Tax advantages: Enjoy pass-through taxation for your business

Operational flexibility: Choose a management structure that fits your specific needs

Asset protection: Separate personal and business finances, safeguarding your personal assets

Launch My Wisconsin LLC Today


How much does it cost to set up an LLC in Wisconsin?

It costs between $100 and $170 to file your Articles of Organization in Wisconsin, depending on your LLC type and the filing method you use. You also have to pay a $15 filing fee for every trademark you want and a $15 fee to reserve your LLC name.

How is an LLC taxed in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin doesn’t impose corporation or franchise taxes on LLCs operating in the state. As such, the central taxes you pay are the income taxes each member already pays. Depending on your business, you may also have to pay sales tax or other taxes.

What are the benefits of a Wisconsin LLC?

A Wisconsin LLC allows you to structure your business as you see fit. It also protects personal liability, meaning creditors can’t claim your personal assets for business-related debts.

How do you dissolve an LLC in Wisconsin?

Complete and submit Wisconsin Form 510, Articles of Dissolution, along with a $20 filing fee, to dissolve your LLC.[15] You can send the form online, submit it in person, or via mail to the following address:

Department of Financial Institutions

Division of Corporate and Consumer Services

Corporate Section

P.O. Box 7846

Madison, WI 53707


  1. Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. “Corporation Section Filing Fees.” Accessed January 24, 2023.

  2. Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. “Search Corporate Records.” Accessed January 24, 2023.

  3. PR Newswire. “76% of Consumers Look at Online Presence Before Physically Visiting a Business.” Accessed January 24, 2023.

  4. Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. “Name Reservation Application.” Accessed January 24, 2023.

  5. Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. “Trademarks.” Accessed January 24, 2023.

  6. Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. “Articles of Organization Limited Liability Company.” Accessed January 24, 2023.

  7. Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. “Form 521 – Foreign Limited Liability Company Registration Statement.” Accessed January 24, 2023.

  8. Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. “Wisconsin Limited Liability Company – Directions.” Accessed January 24, 2023.

  9. Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. “Student Entrepreneur Articles of Organization Limited Liability Company.” Accessed January 24, 2023.

  10. Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. “Corporation Section Frequently Asked Questions.” Accessed January 24, 2023.

  11. Internal Revenue Service. “Do You Need an EIN?” Accessed January 24, 2023.

  12. Internal Revenue Service. “How to Apply for an EIN.” Accessed January 24, 2023.

  13. Department of Safety and Professional Services. “A-Z Professions List.” Accessed January 24, 2023.

  14. Wisconsin Department of Revenue. “Business Tax Registration.” Accessed January 24, 2023.

  15. Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. “Statement of Dissolution or Termination Limited Liability Company.” Accessed January 24, 2023.

Originally published on December 20, 2022, and last edited on January 30, 2024.
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