Wisconsin ranks in the top third of the best states to start a business on CNBC’s annual best states for business list. Wisconsin receives high grades for the quality of education, economy, and cost of doing business.
If you plan on starting an LLC in Wisconsin, you will be required to designate a Wisconsin registered agent. A registered agent is the contact person for your company in any legal matters that arise and receives mail correspondence from the state.
While your company may choose any individual for this role, Wisconsin recommends choosing someone with experience with businesses or corporations to help streamline the paperwork process. In addition, a Wisconsin registered agent should be reliable, responsible, and have a physical street address within state limits.
What is the role of a registered agent?
The role of a registered agent is to receive service of process-this is a legal term that essentially means to obtain official paperwork from anyone who wishes to speak with your company. This can include lawsuits, subpoenas, or other documents received by any government entity within the state of Wisconsin.
The registered agent is then responsible for forwarding mail from the official office address on file to you or your attorney and acts on their behalf.
Who can be a registered agent?
There are a few options to choose from when appointing a registered agent:
- A business employee or owner can serve as a registered agent.
- An individual that you trust to receive official business documents on your behalf with a physical address (P.O. Box is not allowed)
- A third-party registered commercial agent service Northwest Registered Agent can help take the burden of managing tax forms and annual reports off of your plate.
If you have decided that you would like a third-party agent, you must make sure several criteria are met before making your final decision. The first is to make sure the agency has physical offices in Wisconsin–this means that someone from their office will be present in person on business days for all registered agent correspondence.
Their physical presence can help avoid any misdelivery or unnecessary delays in delivering a document that can be crucial to your business.
In addition, look into how long they have been in business and what kind of reputation they have with their clients: you will want an agent who will be easy to contact. An established company is more likely to fulfill your needs as a client, so make sure to research any company before deciding on one.
Wisconsin registered agent requirements
Wisconsin requires each registered agent to meet the following criteria:
- Must maintain a physical address in the state of Wisconsin
- Be over 18 years old.
- Must ensure documents are delivered are processed in a timely fashion.
- Must be available from regular business hours from 9 AM-5 PM
What are the best registered agent services in Wisconsin?
There are a number of registered agent services available throughout the state of Wisconsin that you can choose from, or you can elect to go with a national registered agent service provider.
Here are some other popular registered agent services in Wisconsin:
- Northwest Registered Agent is one of the leading registered agent service providers in Wisconsin. They have been around since 1998 and started with registered agent services but have expanded into other services like online limited liability company processing, official mail forwarding.
- ZenBusiness specializes in fast filings speeds and offers a registered agent service as well. In addition, Zenbusiness also provides additional services like DBAs, websites, and EINs.
- Incfile is a popular online filing service that has grown in popularity recently thanks to their $0 plus state filing fees package. They are known for their online LLC formation services and offer filings for nonprofits, S and C Corps, and various tax and compliance filing options.
Benefits of using a commercial registered agent company
One of the main benefits of using a commercial resident agent company is that it is much faster and more reliable than using a residential provider. Your business will be your registered agent, so you don’t have to worry about misdelivery or incomplete service of the process.
A commercial resident agent company has years of experience helping other businesses in situations just like yours. They also have the resources and staffing necessary to receive the services of the state properly.
LLC’s that use third-party registered agents are often more difficult for the state to locate because they have more than one possible registered agent. This can lead to your service of process being delayed or even lost inadvertently.
Managing companies across multiple states
A commercial registered agent service can help make managing LLCs across different states much more accessible since each state requires a registered agent based in the state of incorporation. In addition, companies like Northwest Registered Agent can serve as your one point of contact for registered agent services if you decide to expand outside of Wisconsin.
Commercial registered agent companies are required by law to have a physical office space in Wisconsin, so you can be assured that your documents will always be handled properly.
A third-party registered agent service can help keep your address from being on public records, making it more difficult for people to find you and send you junk mail.
You can have a registered agent forward any business mail that comes to their office straight to the address of your choosing. No one else will be privy to your business information.
Commercial registered agents are experts at what they do, so they also include other small business services such as:
- Mail Forwarding
- Annual Report Reminders
- Scanned and Stored Legal Documents (Avoid managing your paperwork)
What to do after selecting a Wisconsin registered agent service?
1. Perform a Wisconsin business name search
Once a business decides who will serve as their registered agent, they can select a Wisconsin business name. The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institution’s website maintains public records of companies that have corporations filed in the state. Be sure to choose a unique business entity name to avoid running into issues with the Secretary of State.
If you are struggling to come up with a Wisconsin business name, one option is to use a business name generator that can help generate a high volume of name suggestions in moments.
2. How to file
Once you have performed a Wisconsin business name search and selected a registered agent, the next step is to fill out the Articles of Incorporation form and file it with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. The form is easy to fill out and requires the following information:
- Name of business
- Name of registered agent
- Name of members
Once you have filled out the articles of incorporation form there is a $100 filing fee to process the form with the Department of Finacial Institutions.
3. Register a domain name
Registering a domain name early is essential because it ensures that someone else can’t take it while you’re putting your business together. Our domain name check tool will help you search for available names quickly.
4. Register Wisconsin Name Reservation form
If you have your business name picked out but you aren’t quite ready to register the business, one option is to file a name reservation form with the Department of Financial Institutions. A name reservation costs $15 to file and it will reserve the business name for 120 days.
5. Prepare an operating agreement
An operating agreement is a document that spells out the requirements, privileges, and duties between business owners. It contains how to handle everything from day-to-day operations to what happens if one of the partners dies or wants to leave the business. The operating agreement is essentially a partnership agreement for different types of businesses.
This should be written by an attorney and reviewed by an attorney. Each state has different laws governing operating agreements, which must be considered when creating one. Operating agreements are sometimes referred to as partnership agreements or member agreements, even though they may apply to non-partnership entities such as LLCs.
6. Get a Tax ID from the IRS
A tax id is a reference number assigned by the IRS used when tax returns are filed. The tax id numbers are also referred to as an Employer Identification Number or EIN.
Tax ids can be obtained from the IRS website in a few simple steps.
7. Stay on top of annual filings
Wisconsin requires each corporation to file an annual report through the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. You can file the annual report online or through the mail.
How do I look up a corporation in Wisconsin?
The best way to look up a business in Wisconsin is to perform a business search through the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institution’s website. You will be able to look up any business registered in the state and the database is free for the public to search.
How much does an LLC cost in Wisconsin?
It costs $170 to file an LLC in person or you can file an LLC online for $130. The state encourages utilizing online filings when able to help with processing efficiency.
Does a sole proprietor need a registered agent?
In most cases, they do not. Sole prop businesses have a straightforward structure in Wisconsin, and there is no legal requirement to be registered with the state or any local agencies.
Do corporations require registered agents?
Yes, every Wisconsin corporation, including LLCs, C-Corps, etc., is required to have a registered agent with the state.
How do I change my Wisconsin registered agent?
There may be situations where you need to change your registered agent if you have issues getting correspondence in a timely fashion.
You can change your Wisconsin registered agent by filling out the Change of Registered Agent form and filing it with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.
How much does a registered agent cost?
Registered agent cost will depend on the state where you incorporate. In general, you can expect to pay $150-$300 per year for a registered agent service.
Many new businesses start with one corporate officer, usually the owner, serving as both president and secretary. If that person is also acting as your registered agent, it’s generally safe from legal liability.
Can I use a virtual office as a registered agent?
A virtual office is a business address that offers you the appearance of having an office and isn’t actually in your control. When registered agents are required, we strongly suggest using a commercial registered agent service instead of a virtual office for liability reasons. Also, virtual offices are a bit of a grey area when it comes to state statutes. Check with the Secretary of State in Montgomery to get the official ok.
Is the registered agent liable for the business?
No, the only thing the registered agent could be liable for is negligence in the performance of their duties. Making sure mail correspondence is sent to the business owner in a timely fashion is the most common type of negligence scenario.
Can I be my own Wisconsin registered agent?
As long as you meet the Wisconsin state requirements for statutory agents, you can be your registered agent.
Some of the advantages of being your own registered agent are:
– Ease of responsibility
– You are familiar with all details about the company, and if you need to start legal proceedings against yourself, you can be involved fully.
The disadvantages of being your own registered agent:
– Missing a delivery if you are using your home mailing address
– The requirement to be available during business hours
– If expanding out of state, you will need to establish a new registered agent
How does a business choose a registered agent in Wisconsin?
A business officially appoints a registered agent in Wisconsin when they fill out the Wisconsin Articles of Incorporation form and then file it with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions.
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