If you want to start and run a Wisconsin limited liability company (LLC), you'll need to prepare and file various documents with the state. This article covers the most important ongoing reporting and state tax filing requirements for Wisconsin LLCs.
The State of Wisconsin requires you to file an annual report for your LLC. Annual report forms or notifications are automatically sent to your LLC's registered agent and office. File your annual report online at the DFI website. The annual report is due at the end of the calendar quarter of the anniversary month of your LLC's formation. For example, if your LLC was formed on July 15 then your report would be due by September 30. The current filing fee is $25. (Non-Wisconsin LLCs pay a higher fee.)
When it comes to income taxes, most LLCs are so-called pass-through tax entities. In other words, the responsibility for paying federal income taxes passes through the LLC itself and falls on the individual LLC members. By default, LLCs themselves do not pay income taxes, only their members do. Some states do impose a separate tax or fee on LLCs for the privilege of doing business in the state. Wisconsin, though, is not one of those states.
However, in some cases, the owners of an LLC choose to have their business treated like a corporation for tax purposes. This choice is made by filing IRS Form 2553 with the IRS. (See the IRS website for the form.) Unlike the default pass-through tax situation, when an LLC elects to be taxed as a corporation, the company itself must file a separate tax return. The State of Wisconsin, like almost every other state, taxes corporation income. Wisconsin calls this a franchise tax. In Wisconsin, the franchise tax is a flat 7.9% of net income. The tax is payable to the state's Department of Revenue (DOR). Use the state's corporation income tax return (Form 4) to pay the tax. For more details, check Nolo's article, 50-State Guide to Business Income Tax, or the DOR website.
Does your LLC have employees? If so, you'll need to pay employer taxes. Some of these taxes are paid to the federal government (the IRS) and are not covered here. (But note that federal employer tax obligations start with obtaining a federal employer identification number (EIN).) However, Wisconsin employers also must pay taxes to the state.
First, you'll need to withhold and pay employee income taxes to the DOR. Begin by registering your business with the DOR either online or on paper (Form BTR-101). Once you've registered, you'll need to file withholding taxes on a periodic basis (for example quarterly) using Form WT-6. You'll also need to use some version of Form WT-7 each year to reconcile your LLC's tax withholding. For more information, including regarding online filings, check the DOR website.
In addition, you'll probably need to register to pay state unemployment insurance (UI) taxes. These taxes are handled through Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development (DWD). You can register for these taxes online or by using Form UCT-1-E. Then, each quarter, use Forms UCT-101 and UC-7823-E to report on wages and pay the UI taxes. For more information, including regarding online filings, check the DWD website.
If your LLC will sell goods to customers in Wisconsin, you will need to collect and pay sales tax. This means you'll have to register for this purpose with Department of Revenue and then make periodic sales tax payments for goods sold. You can register online or mail in Form BT-101. After you've registered, you'll be sent a seller's permit. Then, on a periodic basis, you must submit sales tax returns to the DOR. You can do this on paper (Form ST-12) or online. For more information, check the DOR website.
If you will be doing business in states other than Wisconsin, you may need to register your LLC in some or all of those states. Whether you're required to register will depend on the specific states involved: each state has its own rules for what constitutes doing business and whether registration is necessary. Often activities such as having a physical presence (a business location) in a state, hiring employees in a state, or soliciting business in a state (such as by telephone, print ads, mail, or the Internet) will be considered doing business for registration purposes. Registration usually involves obtaining a certificate of authority or similar document.
For more information on the requirements for forming and operating an LLC in Wisconsin, see Nolo's article, 50-State Guide to Forming an LLC, and other articles on LLCs in the LLC section of the Nolo website.