Wisconsin is a fairly popular place to live, discover your dream job, or run your own business. If you want to begin your journey into entrepreneurial success by taking the initial steps to register a business in the Badger State it is a relatively simple and straightforward process and we will show you how to do this.
There are many different development centers in Wisconsin with the sole focus of helping entrepreneurs and those with existing small businesses develop, maintain, and succeed within their local community, throughout the state, nationally, and even on the international stage.
Starting a business in Wisconsin is not only an attractive proposition because of the many pro-business benefits, like free support networks and development schemes, but also because of the incredibly healthy economic climate, that has been strengthening for a number of years. The secretary of state also makes registering a business a fairly straightforward process, and we will show you how to register a company.
How to Register a Business Name in Wisconsin – 7 Easy Steps
The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions makes it reasonably easy to register your business name and here are the three ways you can do this:
- 1. Do it yourself directly on their website.
- 2. Pay a document filing company that can register everything online for you – there is a modest fee for this but it saves a lot of time and ensures it is done correctly.
- 3. Hire an attorney or accountant to file and register your new company – there are higher fees associated with this.
Step 1 – Determine your registered name
Firstly, you must determine that your business name is unique and not being used by someone else. A business registration company can do this research on your behalf or alternatively, you can search directly on the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institution’s website.
Once you have established your name is available you can register a business name in Wisconsin directly on their website if you are comfortable with the process. Or, if you want a company to do this for you that specializes in this, you can use an online registration service to do it.
These document filing companies usually offer a free registered agent service for one year with most of their packages which is often a necessity for new businesses if you don’t have a dedicated business address, or those that are being registered by foreigners with no U.S. address.
Before doing any of this, you must decide on the right structure.
Step 2 – Choose the right entity
You need to choose the right type of business to register and the most common options are a limited liability company (LLC) or an incorporated company (Inc.). If you are keeping things really small and simple (one or two people), then you may consider a sole proprietorship or a general partnership.
Even if you plan to be a solopreneur, it is usually more beneficial for you to register a Wisconsin LLC to make sure, as the owner, you have limited liability under this structure, and so you can benefit from the pass-through tax advantages.
Here is a quick overview of the various options and what they might mean to you:
- Limited Liability Company: A Wisconsin LLC is often the best route for most entrepreneurs because the structure comes with personal asset protection, no double taxation, is fairly easy to maintain, and does not have high registration or annual renewal costs. Through LLC formation you have better tax flexibility and income can be taxed as a pass-through entity like a sole proprietor or partnership, or as a corporation.
- Incorporated Company: A Wisconsin Corporation offers personal asset protection and your company can own property, vehicles, incur liabilities, and is responsible for its own debts and can conduct business without the owners risking their personal assets such as their homes, cars, personal savings, retirement, etc. On the flip side, owners of sole proprietorships or partnerships face unlimited liability for both business and personal assets.
Step 3 – Make sure your name is not being used by another company
This may seem obvious, but if you check the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions website and see that your chosen business name is available, that is all well and good, but that doesn’t mean someone else is not using that same or similar name, particularly in another state.
Many people register an “official business entity name” and trade under a different name. This is called a Wisconsin dba, or “doing business as” name or assumed trading name, and needs a separate DBA certificate.
You will want to do a Google search for your official name and your desired trading name (if different) to make sure no one else is using this name. Most importantly, you will want to make sure you can get an easy-to-remember website domain name that is not being used by someone else.
Having an awesome name or trading name for your business can be crucial to your success, so making sure the domain name is available too, and registering it right away, is equally as important.
Finally, if you go to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions website and discover that someone else has registered the name you would like, you can search for variations of that name by adding a word before it or after it, or using some other variations until you find a name that is available and acceptable for you.
Step 4 – Request an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Once you have registered your new business in Wisconsin you will need to get an EIN for a number of reasons. These include paying taxes for your business, opening a bank account, obtaining credit cards or lines of credit, establishing terms with vendors and suppliers, hiring employees, and more.
There are only a few instances where you likely won’t need an EIN. More often than not, many business activities are just not possible without having an EIN.
An EIN is the business equivalent of a social security number and is used to track your business dealings. Even if you do not intend to hire employees, you will almost certainly still need an EIN for your Wisconsin company and it protects you from having to use your social security number.
An EIN (also known as a federal tax id) is free to obtain from the IRS and you can apply online but if you are not comfortable filling in forms you can use a third-party document filing service to do this for you for a small fee. This ensures you are 100% compliant with the law and they handle everything with the IRS.
Step 5 – Obtain the Required Business Licenses and Permits
To operate your business in Wisconsin you must comply with federal, state, and local government regulations. Wisconsin does not require all businesses to have a “general” license to operate but depending on the type of business you start, or the location of your business within the state, you might need certain licenses and permits.
You will, however, need additional specific permits for specific businesses. For example, if you open a restaurant or similar food-related business you will most likely need a health permit, sales tax permit, facilities permit, and others. If you plan to sell alcohol, you will need a liquor license, essentially it all depends on the type of products and services your business is going to offer.
The business licenses you will need to acquire in order to register a business in Wisconsin will also differ depending on the location of the business too.
You must find out how to obtain the necessary Wisconsin business licenses and permits, this link will allow you to personally search for your type of business in order to familiarize yourself with the permits and licenses your business may require to operate in Wisconsin, offering the appropriate forms.
Alternatively, you could hire a professional document filing company to do this for you. It eliminates a lot of time and hassle and ensures you are correctly complying with Wisconsin law. After all, Wisconsin has no single generic business license that will ensure compliance with all requirements.
Step 6 – Determine Your Business Employer Requirements
There are several things you need to check regarding your responsibilities as an employer in Wisconsin because there are requirements you must meet at the federal and state level. These could include various workforce commissions, safety, and state tax obligations, as well as labor law requirements including the minimum wage in Wisconsin and employee rights and remedies under the Wisconsin minimum wage act.
To learn more about Wisconsin employer resources take a look at the Wisconsin Department of Workforce and Development website.
Step 7 – Open a Business Bank Account for your Wisconsin Company
As a new business owner, you should seriously consider separating your personal and business bank accounts to make it easier to track and account for your income and expenses. For certain business types, such as an LLC or a Corporation, it is essential that you open a separate business bank account to maintain your liability protection.
Once you have your EIN and your company registration documents, coupled with your driver’s license, you are ready to go to the bank and open your checking account.
Don’t worry, this won’t be expensive or leave you burdened with hefty monthly fees to pay – there are many free business bank accounts out there for you to choose from. Each has its different features and benefits, so you can decide what bank and checking account best suits your needs.
Summarizing Registering a Business in Wisconsin
Wisconsin has always had an underappreciated business and economic climate, with the state creating a progressive environment for both large and small businesses, with many different business development centers and free advisories. These useful resources are focused solely on helping new and existing businesses develop and thrive within the state!
Small businesses flourish in Wisconsin because of the many redeeming qualities the state possesses, such as a manageable state tax burden (7.9% flat corporate income tax rate), an ever-growing and brilliant state economy, a multitude of readily available office space, tons of supportive local communities, an incredibly solid education system (41% college-educated), and a highly-skilled workforce.
The state fee for registering a business in Wisconsin is $130 for an LLC and $130 for a corporation (online filing, $170 to file by mail). The annual filing fee to maintain your company in Wisconsin is $40 for a corporation and the rate same is applied for an LLC.
America’s Dreamland is committed to your success and has many resources at your disposal that you can take advantage of.