Think of all the people you communicate with regularly to run your LLC. Business partners, employees, banks, lawyers, and financial advisors all probably come to mind. But what about the state? It may not be at the top of your list, but running a successful LLC in Wisconsin requires consistent interaction with the state.
Formation documents, business information changes, lawsuits, professional licenses, and Annual Reports – all of these (and more) require you to work with state agencies. The good news is that you don’t need to do it yourself.
Introducing the registered agent. A Wisconsin registered agent is an intermediary for your LLC, a person or company that handles your communication with the state. They’re a vital part of any LLC’s success. Before you file your Articles of Organization, you’ll need to have a designated registered agent. How? Why? Who? Read on to find out.
Special Offer: You can get a free registered agent service and have the LLC formation paperwork filed for you by hiring an online LLC service. While there are a lot of options available and LegalZoom is the most well known, two of the top options that offer excellent prices and features are IncFile and ZenBusiness.
What is a Wisconsin Registered Agent & is it Necessary?
An LLC cannot be formed or do business in Wisconsin without first having a registered agent on file with the Department of Financial Institutions. This is required by law and the penalties can be serious. Maintaining a registered agent doesn’t just keep you in good standing. It also provides an important service.
Think of your registered agent as your ambassador to the state, handling all your LLC’s important legal, tax, and compliance information. They can either be an individual, company or registered agent service, even yourself if you don’t mind the responsibilities.
As soon as they’re appointed, your registered agent must be consistently available in Wisconsin to receive and act on mailed documents and service of process. Here’s what the Department of Financial Institutions specifically says:
And make sure you have a valid registered agent on file at all times, because the state won’t hesitate to administratively dissolve your LLC if they catch you operating without one.
What are the Requirements of a Registered Agent?
While Wisconsin is fairly flexible with registered agent appointments, not everyone is considered a valid option. An acceptable registered agent must:
- Be an individual Wisconsin resident or a corporation authorized to do business in the state.
- Have a physical address in Wisconsin.
- Have a mailing address in Wisconsin (P.O boxes are not allowed).
- Not be an LLC serving as it’s own agent
You’ll need to provide a valid registered agent when you file your Articles of Organization, and that person or company will begin their duties as soon as the form is processed. Here’s a screenshot for reference:
When you’ve got potential options for your registered agent, review each one to make sure that they meet these requirements. If they do, you’re good to go! If not, you’ll need to keep looking.
Who can be a Registered Agent in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin’s registered agent requirements are pretty broad, so you’ll have no shortage of options. On top of that, your agent can be either an individual or a professional service. But think carefully before choosing, because each option has its own pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look.
You may choose to appoint a single person as your registered agent. Some LLC owners take on registered agent duties themselves. Others appoint one of their partners or managers. Some will even appoint a family member. As long as the proposed agent fulfills the state’s requirements, they’re a valid option.
In addition to being a Wisconsin resident, your agent must not currently be establishing residency or receiving benefits in another state, even if that residency is still forthcoming.
Some smart registered agent choices include attorneys, accountants, or other LLC partners, people who understand the ins and outs of business operations.
- Convenience – Having familiarity and mutual trust with your registered agent is extremely beneficial, and appointing an acquaintance can provide both. Plus, you’ll always know how to contact them.
- Cost – Hiring someone you know often won’t cost a dime. It’s certainly cheaper than a professional service.
- Scheduling – Part of a registered agent’s duty is being consistently available to receive mailed documents and service of process. If your agent goes on vacation or moves out of state, it will throw a wrench in your plans.
- Punctuality Risks – Some state communications and filings are very time sensitive. If your agent is unavailable when documents are delivered, it could slow down the entire process and put you at risk for late fees and penalties. Even worse, a friend or family member could lose or misplace a document. So if you’d rather not interrogate Aunt Louise about the location of a particular tax form, you might consider using a registered agent service instead.
Registered Agent Service
If safety and reliability is your goal, hire a registered agent service. A business acting as your registered agent must be either a domestic entity in Wisconsin or a foreign entity who has foreign qualified in Wisconsin.
- Privacy – Some documents delivered to your registered agent will contain sensitive information. Do you want details about your lawsuit or taxes lost out there in the world? Definitely not. A friend or family member might misplace these documents, but a professional service will not. Plus, in Wisconsin, all registered agent names and addresses are available to the public. This might make an individual uncomfortable, but hiring a company will keep this personal information off the record.
- Reliability – Handling and processing time-sensitive documents is a registered agent service’s specialty, its area of expertise, its main game. Hire a professional service and you can be sure that your filings will be submitted properly and punctually, so you’ll never have to deal with late fees or other penalties.
- Location – Many registered agent companies offer service in most or all 50 states, so if business is booming and you decide to expand outside Wisconsin, you won’t need to find a new agent for each state.
- Cost – There’s no getting around it – hiring a service costs more than appointing an individual who’s willing to do it for free. However, for a reasonable price (roughly $100/year), you’ll receive premium services. Taking your car to a mechanic costs more than letting your neighbor try to fix it, but the mechanic gives you peace of mind that the job will get done right, and that may very well be worth the cost.
All of the other steps in the LLC formation process will keep you busy, but take some time to ensure you find a registered agent that fits with your business model, goals, and values. Do this, and your LLC will reap the benefits for years to come.
How to get a Free Registered Agent
Here’s a pro tip: you can get the reliability of a registered agent service and the cost-effectiveness of an individual. The best of both worlds. When you hire certain LLC services to start your business, they’ll throw in free registered agent service.
How it Works
Hire a company like IncFile or ZenBusiness to form your Wisconsin LLC. In addition to taking care of your Articles of Organization and other formation requirements, they will automatically include a registered agent. It’s a great two-for-one deal.
And an LLC service is pretty affordable – $130 (online) or $170 (hard copy) for the Wisconsin LLC formation fee, plus a $49 or $79 service fee. That’s great value for the number of benefits you receive. Some services will even cover and consolidate your LLC formation costs.
Take this route and you’ll sweep all formation paperwork and registered agent duties off your plate. Plus, to keep track of everything, these services provide user-friendly online dashboards, so you can follow everything they’re doing to keep your LLC in good standing.
Registered Agent Changes and Resignation
You may have a wonderful registered agent, someone who takes care of everything efficiently and who you trust completely. But you know what they say: all good things must come to an end. At some point in the life of your LLC, you may need to change your Wisconsin registered agent.
There are two ways to make this change: through the Department of Financial Institutions’ filing portal, or on your Annual Report. The DFI option is available year-round, making it the more common choice. Simply enter your LLC’s name on this page, select it from the results, and follow the onscreen instructions. This form has a $10 filing fee, so have a credit card ready.
Your need for a new agent, however, might arise around the time that your Annual Report is due. In this case, you can kill two birds with one stone by making the change directly on your report.
Often, the reason you might need to make this change is that your current registered agent resigns.
Your agent isn’t allowed to leave suddenly, though. In Wisconsin, a registered agent retains his or her duties for 30 days after submitting an official resignation form, so you have a month before you’re without an agent. If you don’t have a new one on file by the time you file your next Annual Report, the state can administratively dissolve your LLC, so make sure you line up a replacement right away so you can continue doing business in the state.
Have Questions or Concerns?
This guide contains almost everything there is to know about Wisconsin registered agents. However, you might have a unique situation that requires additional information. Reaching out to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions is easy, and they’ll have the answers you need. Here’s how to go about it:
Visit Their Website
The Department of Financial Institutions website contains information not just on registered agents, but the entire LLC formation process. This includes a helpful FAQ page that covers a wide range of topics.
Give Them a Call
Sometimes a short phone chat can be easier, and you can connect with a representative from the DFI’s Madison office at (608) 261-9555.