Wisconsin Startup

If you're considering a new Wisconsin startup business, you have an important choice to make: the type of business you're going to form. This decision will have an impact on your taxes and your personal liability, so it's extremely important to select the business structure that's right for your industry and your specific needs and priorities.

Our Wisconsin Startup page will give you an overview of the major types of businesses you can form in the state. We hope that it gives you a good starting point! Of course, be sure to discuss your options with your lawyer or accountant before you register so you know you're taking everything into consideration.

Wisconsin Trade Name

Unlike in some states, Wisconsin trade names are registered with the County Clerk's office of the county in which the business is located.

Wisconsin trade name owners have no limited liability protection against debts or obligations of the business, making them better suited for some industries than others.

Incorporate in Wisconsin

Forming a corporation, on the other hand, provides personal liability protection to its owners. When you incorporate in Wisconsin, you create a new entity that can enter into contracts, take out loans, and perform other activities available to legal "persons."

To form a corporation in Wisconsin, you will submit Articles of Incorporation to the Department of Financial Institutions.

C Corporation

One type of corporation, the C corporation, allows you to have as many shareholders as you would like. These shareholders may consist of individuals (whether or not they are US citizens) or other business entities themselves (corporations or LLCs).

S Corporation

An S corporation, on the other hand, is limited to 100 shareholders, and these shareholders must be US citizens or legal aliens; they cannot be business entities. However, S corporations provide tax benefits, as they are considered "pass-through" entities, taxed only at the individual level when corporate profits are distributed to the shareholders.

Wisconsin Foreign Corporation

A Wisconsin foreign corporation is a filing available to corporations that have already registered in another state but wish to do business within Wisconsin.

If the legal corporate name is not available in the state for use with your Wisconsin foreign corporation name, your corporation must register for a Fictitious Name for use in the state. This can be done simultaneously with registering as a Wisconsin foreign corporation—which is an excellent reason to do your research and determine if your legal name is available before submitting the form.

Wisconsin LLC

An LLC is formed by filing Articles of Organization, which also go through the Department of Financial Institutions. Rather than shares, owners have percentages of ownership in the company.

Unlike with a corporation, where individual shares correspond to the percentage of profits distributed, an LLC's individual owners may receive whatever percentage of profits specified in the Operating Agreement; this does not need to correspond with the initial ownership contributions.

Wisconsin Nonprofit Corporation

A 501c3 nonprofit corporation is a special kind of nonprofit, one that has been accepted by the IRS as a tax-exempt organization based on its purpose. Not every Wisconsin nonprofit corporation is exempt from taxes; only upon acceptance by the IRS as a 501c3 can an organization accept tax-deductible donations and other federal benefits.