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How to Form a Wisconsin LLC: Wisconsin and its Many Business Benefits

There are many requirements that go in to getting your Wisconsin LLC up and running, some of which can be overwhelming when trying to start a new business.

However, with the right support, you’ll be able to successfully form your Wisconsin LLC so you can start operating as a limited liability company.

Below you will find an overview of each step:

1. Name your Wisconsin LLC

2. Select a registered agent to represent your Wisconsin LLC

3. File your LLC’s Articles of Organization

4. Draft your LCC’s Operating Agreement

5. Apply for your LLC’S Employer Identification Number (EIN)

What is a Limited Liability Company (LLC)?

A limited liability company (LLC) is a combination of a corporation and partnership. The limited liability business structure provides its owners with corporation-like protection against debts or lawsuits by providing liability protection. This means that the owners’ personal assets can’t be seized to pay off LLC debts, so bank accounts, boats, vehicles, and real estate remain off-limits.

There are a few steps that go into opening up your Wisconsin business so you can start utilizing the benefits of the limited liability business structure. Keep reading for more information about how to start your Wisconsin LLC.

1. Choose an LLC Name for Your Wisconsin LLC

Choosing an LLC name for your limited liability company is one of the most important parts of starting a business. You’ll want to choose a name that best represents your business entity to potential customers or clients.

You’ll also want to be sure that your LLC name is available before completing all of the LLC formation documents for your business in Wisconsin. If you apply with a taken name, your application will be rejected and your filing fee will not be refunded. In order to make sure that your ideal name is available, you’ll need to conduct a name search.

Conduct a Name Search for Your LLC in Wisconsin

One of the naming requirements is that the name of your business must not be used by any other business in the state. To check this, you will conduct a name search through the Wisconsin Secretary of State website. The website has many other tools and resources available, but for now, only focus on the name search tool.

The name search tool will check your ideal name against other LLCs in Wisconsin. If the results show that the name is taken, then you will know to choose another name. If the name is available, then you can continue organizing your LLC in Wisconsin under that name.

There are a few state guidelines to keep in mind when choosing a name for your business:
  • Pick a name with the proper designator, such as “limited liability company,” “L.L.C.” or “LLC.” This lets everyone know that your business is an LLC and not a partnership or an s corporation.
  • Avoid using restricted words. Restricted words indicate that your business is something that it isn’t, such as a medical office, non-profit, or law firm. If you are a professional, additional paperwork is required and you’ll also need a license.
  • Never include words that suggest that your business is a government agency. For example, you can’t include words like the State Department, FBI, or Treasury in your name.

Apply for a Name Reservation for Your LLC in Wisconsin

The state of Wisconsin allows you to reserve your new name for approximately 120 days. This will prevent anyone from obtaining the name before you can file your LLC application. To reserve your business name, complete a name reservation application, and pay a filing fee.

The Department of Financial Institutions approves all name reservation requests. When completing and filing the form, be sure to include your name and address, and make sure that it has a dated signature. The check or money order can be made payable to the Department of Financial Institutions.

Reserve a Domain Name for Your Business' Website

After you find the perfect name for your business, you should determine if your potential business name is available for a website. You may not plan for your LLC to operate a website, but it is important to consider this as many businesses thrive when they have an online presence.

Even if you don’t plan on operating a website for your business, purchasing the domain will prevent anyone else from acquiring it if you ever change your mind.

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2. Select a Registered Agent

Each entity type requires businesses in all states to acquire a registered agent. If you want to do business in Wisconsin, you will need a registered agent as part of the LLC formation process. A registered agent is an individual or a company elected to be your point of contact for legal matters and will send and accept legal documents on behalf of your Wisconsin LLC.

Who Can Be a Registered Agent?

The state of Wisconsin has specific rules on who can represent your LLC as a registered agent. For example, a registered agent must be a resident of the state you’re doing business in. This means that if you do business in the state of Wisconsin, then your registered agent needs to have a Wisconsin address. Wisconsin has plenty of registered agent services that will act as your point of contact with the state for a minimal cost.

Your registered agent must be over the age of 18 and must be available during normal business hours to receive legal documents. You can select yourself as your LLC’s registered agent, you can choose a trusted friend or family member, or you can hire a registered agent service to satisfy the requirements.

How Can a Registered Agent Service Help You?

Many business owners prefer to hire a registered agent service for multiple reasons. Services guarantee professionalism, so they’re often much more reliable than choosing a friend or relative to handle important documents for your business.

Services are also available during the required hours, but you may not want to have to be. Hiring a registered agent for your LLC in Wisconsin can save you a lot of time and energy while granting you the freedom of not having to be in your office all day.

The last, and maybe most important reason, is that services will list their address on the LLC formation documents instead of you having to list yours. Since the address of registered agents is public record, this means that if you are your own agent, your address will be public record.

Not everyone wants to have their personal information publicly available, so many business owners prefer to pay the low cost of hiring services in order to keep their information private.

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3. File Your LLC’s Articles of Organization

Starting an LLC in Wisconsin requires business owners to file the Articles of Organization with the state. This important document will establish your Wisconsin LLC as a legal business entity once it’s filed and approved. Once you’re approved as a legal business entity, you can start doing business as a Wisconsin LLC.

You have the option of sending your Articles of Organization to the state either by mail or online. A filing fee is required when you submit the Articles of Organization for your LLC in Wisconsin.

The LLC Articles of Organization must include several things that describe how entities operate and are financed. Your Articles of Organization should include:

1.  The name of your LLC

2. Name and addresses of all members

3. Name of the individual organizing your LLC

4. Name of your LLC’s registered agent

5. Your LLC’s duration

6. Purpose of your LLC

7. LLC’s membership structure

8. LLC’s management structure

Once you get approved as an LLC in Wisconsin state, you must keep your Articles of Organization in a safe place as you may need to reference this document in the future. After the LLC registration process has been completed, you will need to create an LLC Operating Agreement with information about how your LLC will run post-registration.

4. Draft Your LCC’s Operating Agreement

An Operating Agreement is a legal document that explains the outlines the ownership, the finances, and the operating procedures. You don’t need to register an Operating Agreement with the state of Wisconsin, however, it is a vital document to draft when you’re starting a limited liability company because it works as a guide for your business.

This document is a comprehensive picture of your company and it ensures that all owners are on the same page when it comes to operating and financing the company. It reduces the risk of future conflicts for single and multi-member LLCs by organizing the information into one place. Some people use a template, but others prefer to create the document from scratch so it can be personalized for the business.

The following information should be in your LLC Operating Agreement:
  • When the LLC was officially formed
  • The names and addresses of all members
  • The name of your registered agent
  • How the ownership is divided
  • How the LLC will be managed by members
  • Voting procedures
  • The amount of money each member has invested in the LLC
  • How LLC capital is raised in the future
  • How profits and losses are divided among members
  • The role of each owner
  • How the LLC will dissolve

Why Operating Agreements are Necessary for LLCs

Regardless of which type of LLC you have in Wisconsin, you want to create an Operating Agreement for the safety of your company. The following are just some of the reasons why you may need an Operating Agreement:

1. An Operating Agreement protects the limited liability status of business entities. If you are the sole owner of an LLC, this document helps you keep your personal finances separate from LLC finances. For example, if you are ever sued, court officials will investigate your LLC. Without an Operating Agreement, you may appear to have a sole proprietorship.

3. Operating Agreements prevent potential conflicts with other business partners. If you are starting a multi-member LLC, you want to prevent misunderstandings among owners. With an agreement, you set clear expectations regarding each owner’s responsibilities, resources, and role in the LLC.

Can the Operating Agreement Be Updated?

Remember that the terms, policies, and listed rules can change as your business grows. You’re allowed to amend or change the terms, policies, and rules in your Operating Agreement. If you need help with drafting your Operating Agreement, contact the professionals at LLC Formations so we can help you get started.

5. Apply for Your LLC’S Employer Identification Number (EIN)

The last step in forming your Wisconsin LLC is applying for your Employer Identification Number (EIN). This number is not obtained through the Wisconsin Secretary of State’s office. Instead, you must obtain your LLC’s EIN via the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This service is free and the registration process is fairly simple.

You will need an EIN in order to do business in the state of Wisconsin. The EIN allows you to handle important parts of your business, such as paying business tax, opening a business bank account, and applying for a credit card for your Wisconsin LLC.

How to Apply for an EIN

When applying online for your EIN, you’ll need to answer some questions. These questions are the same on the paper form that you mail to the IRS, so you can choose to do it either by mail or online. You will need an SSN if you’re applying for an EIN online. If you don’t have an SSN, you must complete the paper application for an EIN. This application form is IRS Form SS-4.

If you need any further information about how to apply for an EIN, contact the professionals at LLC Formations so we can take care of it for you.

Protect Your LLC and Personal Assets

If you own an LLC, you must keep your personal and business assets separate according to business law. When business and personal accounts are mixed, bad things happen. Personal assets include things like a bank account, car, home, or even luxury items.

When accounts are mixed, you are piercing the corporate veil. Piercing the corporate veil refers to the protection you have as an LLC owner. An LLC provides a veil to protect your personal finances from your business assets. This means that if you are sued, your personal assets cannot be used to pay the plaintiffs.

Setting up an LLC doesn’t protect your personal assets from business debts. You must keep them separate. If you don’t, it means you pierced the corporate veil and now have commingled personal and business assets. Thus, creditors may obtain your personal assets to pay off your debts when you’ve pierced the corporate veil and:

  • Your LLC is severely underfunded
  • Your LLC and owners haven’t maintained separate business and personal assets
  • Your LLC participated in wrongful or fraudulent actions

Obtain Business Insurance for Your Wisconsin LLC

Business insurance is just as important to your newly formed Wisconsin LLC as opening business accounts. Insurance reduces the risk of lawsuits and other negative things that can occur in business. More importantly, business insurance allows you to focus on growing your LLC. The type of business insurance you will need depends on your industry and profession.

There are a few different types of insurance that you may want to consider for your Wisconsin state business:

  • General liability insurance is a board insurance policy that protects your LLC from lawsuits.
  • Professional liability insurance is more specific. It provides business professional service provides coverage against malpractice claims and other types of business errors.
  • Workers’ compensation insurance coverage protects an employer against employees’ job-related injuries, illnesses, or even death. In Wisconsin, a company with three or more workers must have workers’ compensation insurance. One of the three employees can’t be an owner.

Wisconsin Businesses Licenses and Permits

Depending on your LLC’s products or services, you may need business licenses or permits to conduct business in the state of Wisconsin. In order to operate a business in the state, your LLC must comply with local, state, and federal government regulations. These government regulations include building, signage, and health permits.

In order to obtain certain business licenses and permits, you may need to submit additional information or documentation to the state and there may be a cost involved. Either way, it’s extremely important that you are operating legally, so reach out to the professionals at LLC Formations so we can guide you through which permits you may need for your Wisconsin business.

Tax Requirements for Wisconsin LLCs

Business tax requirements within Wisconsin state depend on the nature of your business. For example, your LLC is required to pay sales tax if you’re selling a physical product. Sales tax, also known as “Sales and Use Tax” is required by municipalities, states, and counties for any type of business transaction involving the exchange of services and goods that are taxable.

You must complete the registration for a seller’s permit via the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. After you complete the registration, you’ll receive a certificate that allows you to collect sales tax on all taxable sales from your business in Wisconsin.

Taxes can be overwhelming and sometimes confusing, so we recommend reaching out to a professional who can provide you with more information. This way, you will know how to prepare for LLC’s taxes and you will know what to expect when tax season comes around.

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File Annual Reports for Your Wisconsin LLC

It’s important to familiarize yourself with Wisconsin LLC laws and legal obligations. For example, the state requires your LLC to file yearly reports. These reports are filed by mail or online. Your registered agent will receive a mailed notification when your LLC’s annual reports are due. Typically, all LLCs are due each year by the end of their filing anniversary quarter. The required fee must be paid to the department of financial institutions when filing your reports.

How Can LLC Formations Help You?

Forming an LLC in Wisconsin takes a lot of work. However, an LLC is worth it. An LLC offers many benefits to business owners. However, before taking on this huge task, it’s important to consider a professional service that can make the process of forming an LLC easier and stress-free.

A service handles all the paperwork so you can instead focus on growing your business. Before you start filling out forms, pick a professional service to help you through the process. You can also visit our Wyoming LLC guide if you’re interested in opening up an LLC in Wyoming.

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