A state of Wisconsin LLC is formed by following these steps:

  1. Name your business.
  2. Select a registered agent.
  3. File your Articles of Organization with the state.
  4. Create an operating agreement.
  5. Obtain an EIN and required licenses and permits.

How to Form an LLC in Wisconsin: First Steps

The first, most important step you'll take when starting your LLC is selecting a name for your business. Do some research so that you choose a name that's well-suited to your business and easy to find by potential customers.

Wisconsin has the following naming guidelines:

  • Your business name must end with a designator, such as L.L.C., LLC, or Limited Liability Company.
  • Certain words — like “Bank” or “Attorney” — are restricted. You'll need to file additional paperwork to use them and/or have a licensed professional — such as a lawyer or doctor — be part of your business.
  • Other words are prohibited, such as “FBI” or “Treasury,” in order to prevent confusion over an association between your LLC and a state or federal agency.

Your business name has to be unique and distinguishable from existing names in the state. Do a name search on the state's online database to make sure your desired business name is available. If your name is available, you might want to buy the domain name for it. Even if you don't have plans to create a website right away, securing your domain name prevents someone else from buying it.

If you want to reserve a name, you can file a name reservation application. You must submit this reservation by mail and pay a filing fee of $15. The reservation is good for 120 days.

Next, you'll select a registered agent — also called a resident agent, agent for service of process, or statutory agent — for your LLC. This is an individual or company that accepts and sends legal paperwork on your business's behalf. The type of paperwork an agent handles includes state filings and service of process.

Your registered agent must have a physical street address in Wisconsin or be a company authorized to do business in the state. You can elect someone in your company to fill this role, including yourself.

Documentation, EIN, and Licenses

You'll file Articles of Organization with the Department of Financial Institutions to officially create your LLC.

Your Articles must include the following:

  • Business name and address
  • Registered agent name and address
  • Each organizer's name and address
  • Management type
  • Articles drafter name

You can file your Articles by mail or online. Submit a non-refundable fee of $130 for online filing or $170 for mail filing.

You should create an operating agreement for your business, which is a legal document detailing your LLC's ownership and operating procedures. Wisconsin doesn't require you to have one, but it's still recommended to create one, especially if your business has more than one owner.

You'll need to obtain an EIN from the IRS. This is an Employer Identification Number, also called a Federal Tax ID Number. This number, similar to a Social Security Number, is your business's identification number. You'll need an EIN to file your business taxes and to open a business bank account.

It's free to obtain an EIN after you form your company, and you can apply online or by mail. Online applications are the quickest and most convenient way to get your number; once your application is approved, you'll receive your EIN immediately.

You may also need city and/or state business licenses, depending on your jurisdiction and the type of business you operate. In addition, you may need to register with the state's Department of Revenue (DOR). This is usually required if you have employees or sell products and collect sales tax. You can register with the DOR online or by mail.

Many people wishing to start a small business form an LLC because the procedure is simple, quick, and relatively inexpensive. LLCs are popular among small business owners because it gives them personal liability protection and pass-through taxation benefits. Because it's an easy process, most people can create an LLC without help from an attorney. It's also convenient because you can perform most of the steps online.

If you need help with an LLC in Wisconsin or another state, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.