Starting a company

How To Form A Corporation In Wisconsin

Key Highlights

  • Recognize why choosing a distinctive company name and checking its availability are necessary stages in founding a Wisconsin firm.
  • Understand the steps involved in establishing a Wisconsin company, including developing corporate bylaws, selecting directors and officers, preparing and filing articles of incorporation, obtaining an employer identification number (EIN), and more.
  • Discover Wisconsin's corporate compliance obligations, which include paying state taxes, obtaining required licenses and permits, and completing an initial report and yearly reports.
  • Understand Implementing record-keeping and bookkeeping procedures, planning yearly meetings, and keeping track of compliance deadlines, and standards are all necessary for maintaining and administering a Wisconsin business.
  • Find out the various procedures involved in converting an existing company to a Wisconsin corporation, including submitting Articles of Incorporation and acquiring required licenses.

Entrepreneurs wanting to form a corporation in Wisconsin are searching for strategies to increase revenues while lowering risks in this dynamic business environment. Numerous advantages come with this corporate structure, such as restricted liability protection, indefinite life, and improved reputation. However, before diving into the benefits of incorporating in Wisconsin, it is crucial to understand the difficulty of the procedure and the stringent standards that must be satisfied.

Overview of the advantages of forming a Wisconsin corporation

When it comes to protecting shareholders from the repercussions of corporate responsibilities, Wisconsin firms are the crème of the crop. One of their most significant advantages is the highly coveted limited liability protection, which separates investors' assets from business assets. Due to this, it is almost impossible for shareholders' fortunes to be overshadowed by corporate debt. Additionally, this insurance might be a genuine lifesaver if you are managing a high-risk organization or are responsible for significant obligations.

Significance of understanding the incorporation process and requirements

The process of filing articles of incorporation, which is like writing a symphony of legalese, comes next. These legal documents, which must go by Wisconsin's laws and regulations, define the composition, objective, and ownership of your business.The next step is to choose a board of directors, which is like putting together a superhero team to take your company to new heights. These people will be in charge of managing your company's daily operations and making strategic choices.

Types of Wisconsin Corporations

The best business structure may be a very challenging choice for the owner of a company. Making this decision requires an understanding of the various business forms offered by the state of Wisconsin. The choice that best fits the unique needs and goals of your business operation can only be made after that. There are few different types of Wisconsin corporations-

C Corporation

When deciding how to form their company, business owners frequently choose C corporations. This form creates a distinct legal entity that can enter into contracts, own property, and be held responsible for its debts and obligations, providing investors with limited liability protection. 

S Corporation

An alternative to a C business is an S corporation, which allows pass-through taxation. Due to this structure, the company's profits and losses are reported on the shareholders' tax returns rather than being taxed at the corporate level. For the firm to qualify for S corporation status, specific eligibility requirements must be met, such as having not more than 100 shareholders and just one class of stock.

Nonprofit Corporation

A nonprofit corporation could be the best choice for business owners who want to launch a charitable, spiritual, or educational institution. Nonprofit organizations are not required to pay any federal or state income taxes since they are tax-exempt. However, this structure is coupled with strict guidelines that apply to nonprofit organizations, calling for careful planning and adherence to these guidelines.

Professional Corporation

If you're a professional, such as a lawyer, accountant, or doctor, you should research the professional corporation structure. It was built with professionals like you in mind, just like any other organization. You are allowed to manage your practice like a company and continue to have your professional license and liability insurance. 

Selecting the appropriate corporate organization for your business is a significant decision that impacts your success. There are several business entities to pick from, and each has benefits and drawbacks of its own. 

Preliminary Steps for Wisconsin Business 

A few prerequisites must be met to ensure a successful registration procedure for a business in Wisconsin. These actions comprise:

Conduct a business name search

You should conduct a business name search and come up with a name that is distinctive and meets Wisconsin's corporate name regulations. Utilize the online tool you'll find on the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions website to look for available company names. No question about it! You may use this tool to see if your name is already being used, helping you to prevent any future legal issues.

Reserve your business name (optional)

Having a name reserved might be the icing on the cake when it comes to Wisconsin business registration. It's a stage that you may skip and use to hold off on registering your business name for up to 120 days. Therefore, this choice comes in handy if you're unsure and need extra time to develop the ideal name. An Application for name reservation should be submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions in order to reserve a company name in Wisconsin. 

But a name is not always guaranteed to be yours to keep just because you reserve it. While you complete your registration, it solely holds the name for you, preventing anybody else from using it. But if someone else registers a company with the same name before you, you're out of luck.

Appoint a registered agent

It's essential to have a registered agent on your side if you want to form a business in Wisconsin. This agent is the main contact for critical paperwork, including tax returns and litigation, that your company's legal department must receive. 

Develop a business plan

Your success depends on this strategy, which outlines your objectives, your target market, your sales and marketing plans, your financial predictions, and more. To assist company owners in creating a strong business plan, Wisconsin provides a lot of materials. Imagine seminars, sample documents, online resources, and more. It's similar to having a private business coach encourage you from the sidelines.

Forming Your Wisconsin Corporation

Preparing and filing Articles of Incorporation

Drafting and submitting articles of incorporation is a difficult task. These legal documents specify your company's structure, goal, and ownership; they act as its DNA. It is essential to ensure that these items adhere to the law because Wisconsin has special standards for them.

Essential information

Your articles of incorporation should contain detailed information to ensure that your corporation complies with Wisconsin law. This includes the name of the organization, which may be an inventive way to describe your company and should be distinct. You must also provide the corporation's purpose, which should outline the goals and principles of your company.

Filing process and fees with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI)

The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) offers many tools and paperwork to support aspiring business owners in the articles of incorporation process. A Wisconsin corporation may be formed for a pitiful $100 filing fee, while processing can be sped up for an extra cost. It's crucial to remember that the type of business being created can have a big influence on the costs and filing requirements. As a result, it is essential for the entrepreneur to thoroughly examine the possibilities at hand and decide which one best meets their needs. 

Acquire an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a number that the government issues to your company to make it compliant with tax laws. Imagine it as your company's "social security number," except with a lot less complaining. You may acquire an EIN in several methods, including online, by mail, via fax, or even by phone if you're feeling very talkative. However, whichever approach you decide on, make sure you have your corporation's articles of formation close at hand.

Draft corporate bylaws

Corporate bylaws are internal rules and regulations that outline the duties and rights of shareholders, directors, and officials. They form the bedrock of a corporation's operational operations. Bylaws are essential for the efficient running of the organization, even if they are not required to be submitted with the DFI.

Appoint directors and officers

Any successful Wisconsin corporation's board of directors and officials is its foundation. These geniuses are in charge of coordinating the strategic operations of the business and making sure that everything functions flawlessly. 

Wisconsin Corporation Compliance Requirements

Once your Wisconsin corporation has been established, you must comply with compliance requirements to keep it in good standing with the state. 

File the initial report

As a responsible business owner, you must properly file an Initial Report with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions after incorporating your firm in the beautiful state of Wisconsin. The state receives essential information about your corporation through this legal requirement, including the name of the corporation's legal name, the name of the registered agent, and the names of its influential executives.

Submit annual reports

As required by law, it is in your best interest to provide annual reports to the state. These yearly reports must include complete and up-to-date information about your corporation, including the names and addresses of all officers and directors, information about your registered agent, the location of your corporation's principal office, which is where your prestigious company is headquartered, and other pertinent information.

Pay Wisconsin state taxes

You are responsible for paying Wisconsin state taxes which include the franchise tax and corporate income tax, which are determined by your corporation's profits as well as other aspects of your firm. This includes its legal structure and industry. On top of that, Wisconsin imposes a sales tax on the taxable items and services that companies sell.

Secure necessary business licenses and permits

Depending on the type of business you run, you might need to apply for Wisconsin state licenses and permits. This might entail obtaining professional licenses for niche markets like healthcare or finance, as well as authorizations for certain operations like operating a food truck or selling alcoholic beverages. To operate legally in Wisconsin, conducting thorough research and determining precisely which licenses and permissions your company requires is essential. 

Maintaining and Managing Your Wisconsin Corporation

Implement record keeping and bookkeeping practices

You must keep accurate and current records and books, such as financial statements, transaction logs, tax records, and other crucial company papers. By putting these procedures into practice and recordkeeping, you'll not only comply with local, state, and federal laws, but you'll also have access to valuable data that will help you make wise business decisions.

Organize annual meetings

You must have an annual meeting with your shareholders and directors to maintain your Wisconsin company status. You have the opportunity to evaluate the development of your company, make essential choices, and choose new directors and officers. Don't let the thought of organizing a meeting, though; with a bit of forethought and some cunning organizational techniques, you'll be able to whip together a successful annual gathering in no time. 

Monitor compliance deadlines and requirements

When it comes to adhering to local, state, and federal requirements, Wisconsin corporations must walk a fine line. With just one slip-up, you can be subject to sanctions, fees, or even the dreaded termination of your corporation's status. 

Converting an Existing Business to a Wisconsin Corporation

Reasons to consider business conversion

There are several reasons a shrewd business owner would think about business conversion involving incorporating their current company as a Wisconsin corporation. Incorporating a corporation might give the owner(s) more liability protection. This is because it distinguishes between personal and commercial assets, which might be crucial in legal issues. If you're thinking about expanding your company, switching to a Wisconsin corporation can be a wise choice. Just be sure to conduct your homework and speak with experts to make sure it's the best choice for you and your company.

Steps for converting a sole proprietorship, partnership, or LLC

The owner(s) must transfer all of the assets and liabilities of the current business to the new corporation to convert a sole proprietorship or partnership into a corporation. Depending on the state where the LLC was initially incorporated, the conversion procedure for an LLC may differ. To make sure that the conversion procedure goes well, it is crucial to speak with a legal or financial expert.

Dissolution and Winding up Your Wisconsin Corporation

Voluntary dissolution process

Articles of Dissolution should be filed with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions to successfully dissolve a Wisconsin corporation. Essential details such as the name of the company, the date of incorporation, the cause of dissolution, and the date of dissolution must be included in these articles. Each note calls for accuracy and close attention to detail, making the process as complex and subtle as a symphony. 

Involuntary dissolution scenarios

Various situations, each with its criteria and conditions, may result in the involuntary dissolution of a Wisconsin company. These include failing to submit yearly reports or state taxes, failing to have a registered agent or office, or disobeying local rules and laws. With several legal and practical obstacles to overcome, the process of involuntary dissolution can be difficult and complex. 

Necessary steps to dissolve and wind up the corporation

A Wisconsin-based business that intends to dissolve must go through a winding-up process to pay off any outstanding debts and financial commitments before distributing any residual assets to its shareholders. This procedure comprises notifying claimants and creditors of the dissolution, selling or otherwise disposing of any remaining assets, and paying off all outstanding debts and obligations. Any leftover assets may only be distributed to shareholders by their respective ownership interests once all debts and responsibilities have been paid in full. 

Entrepreneurs must be cautious in choosing a distinctive and legal company name, appointing a registered agent, creating bylaws, and submitting the required paperwork to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions to effectively form a Wisconsin corporation. Additionally, the corporation must abide by laws that must be scrupulously followed and closely monitored, such as those requiring the submission of annual reports and the payment of state taxes.


To effectively form a Wisconsin corporation, creative people must be careful while choosing a distinctive and legal company name, appointing a registered agent, creating bylaws, and submitting the required paperwork to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. The corporation must also conform to laws and regulations that must be closely watched and wholly followed, such as filing yearly reports and paying state taxes.

Additionally, it's critical to have a thorough grasp of how to turn a current company into a Wisconsin corporation. Furthermore, it's crucial to understand the procedures needed to dissolve and wind up a business in case the situation calls for it.

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Note: Our content is for general information purposes only. Levy does not provide legal, accounting, or certified expert advice. Consult a lawyer, CPA, or other professional for such services.

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