Business AnswerLine

The Wisconsin Business AnswerLine helps established, new and aspiring business owners at no cost! AnswerLine staff draw from extensive curated resources to provide timely answers to your business questions.

Business AnswerLine

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(800) 940-7232


How do I get a FEIN number?

FEIN is a nine-digit number that the IRS assigns to business entities. The IRS uses this number to identify taxpayers who are required to file various business tax returns.

A business is not required to have a FEIN if it has no employees and is organized as a sole proprietorship or Limited Liability Company with one member. The owner’s social security number may be used instead. However, getting a FEIN in these cases may be wise because chances are a business may be asked for its FEIN in the course of doing business and it prevents the owner’s social security number from being used as the company’s identification number. If the business changes to a partnership or corporation, or if it hires employees, then a FEIN will be required.

How do I get a Wisconsin EIN number?

Wisconsin employer identification number (EIN) is required for employers who pay wages subject to withholding of Wisconsin income tax or other persons with a withholding requirement. Apply for this number online at the Business Tax Registration (BTR101) form available from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue at 608-266-2776 or . (This is the same form used to obtain a seller’s permit.)

Do I need to register my business in Wisconsin?

Businesses operating as Corporations, Not-for-Profit corporations, Cooperatives, Limited Partnerships, Limited Liability Companies, Limited Liability Partnerships, Common Law Trusts, Foreign (out-of-state) entities of the same types licensed to transact business in Wisconsin, Veterans and certain types of religious organizations must register with Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. (608) 261-9555. 

Your business name can be a very important marketing consideration; therefore, you may want to register it with your County Register of Deeds. This registration does not give name protection beyond that of common law. It does make it easier to avoid duplication. 

How do I know if I need an LLC or a Sole Proprietorship?

Limited Liability Company (LLC) is the most used business entity in Wisconsin. It can be formed by one or more members. An LLC separates personal and business assets. The owners must file Articles of Organization and register the business with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, 608/261-9555, 


  • As the name states, with an LLC, an owner’s personal liability is limited (unless there are personal guarantees). 
  • For tax purposes, profits and losses pass-through to the owners. 
  • It is easy to convert an LLC to a corporation. 


  • It is more expensive to organize compared to a sole proprietorship, but less than a corporation. 
  • Ownership is not transferable, unless addressed in the operating agreement. 

A Sole Proprietorship is owned and operated by one person. Obtaining the required licenses and permits establishes the business. If the name of the business is different from the person’s name, it is called a DBA or “Doing Business As”. For example: If John Doe owns a business called EAT HERE, the business is legally identified as John Doe DBA EAT HERE. Wisconsin Statutes do not require registration for a sole proprietorship. You may voluntarily register with the County Registrar of Deeds and the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions 608/261-9555 This is easy to do and establishes credibility for your business. 


  • A sole proprietorship is the easiest entity to form and has low start-up costs. 
  • There is minimal government reporting requirements. 
  • You have the freedom to do business without elaborate formalities. 
  • Profits and losses are claimed on the owner’s personal income tax return. 


  • The owner has unlimited personal liability for business obligations and liabilities. But remember, if you sign a personal guarantee, regardless of your legal structure, you are fully liable for all debt. 
  • When an owner dies or stops operations the business ends. 

How do I get a seller’s permit?

A seller’s permit is required for every organization making retail sales, leases, or rentals of tangible personal property or taxable services in Wisconsin, unless all sales are tax exempt. Apply for a Seller’s Permit Number online using the Business Tax Registration (BTR101) form available from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue at 608-266-2776, . This is the same form used to get your Wisconsin Employer’s Identification Number (EIN). Sales to customers outside of Wisconsin may be subject to tax. This is an issue especially, though not exclusively, for mail order and/or internet based businesses. Check with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue

What other licenses do I need?

The Department of Safety and Professional Services provides information on what licenses are needed for specific industries and how to apply for those licenses.

Where can I learn about state income tax withholding and/or sales tax?

Almost all businesses selling retail products are required to collect sales tax. Some businesses providing a service also collect sales tax. Wisconsin’s sales tax law is that all services are exempt unless specifically listed. Consult the Department of Revenue 608.266.2776 (Madison) or visit their website.

State Withholding Tax ID Number

Do you offer training?

If you are looking for help on how to write a business plan and other entrepreneurial basics, this Entrepreneurial Training Program might be great for you. The course provides the tools needed for business idea testing and business model improvement. Through instruction, guest speakers and coaching, the course serves those who are considering starting a business who want to get a handle on all the details and develop a business plan.

Where else can I go for help in person? 

If you would like to speak with a consultant about your business, please feel free to contact one of our 13 Small Business Development Centers throughout the state. This group provides no-cost assistance to help existing businesses grow and to help new firms get started. You can set up an appointment to meet with a consultant either in person or on the phone.

Where can I get information about patents?

It’s not who invents it, it’s who gets to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office first that matters. This site offers searchable indexes on patents, legal material, patent resources, trademark and copyright issues, technical information and much more.

Where can I get answers to my exporting questions?

Wisconsin SBDC Consultants are certified in international trade consulting. 

Export Information – In an effort to help small businesses with their exporting questions, the Federal Government has provided this website.

How can I learn about health inspection requirements for my business?

Businesses that involve the sale of food or lodging or beauty and health services will generally have health inspection requirements. These may be determined by consulting the Wisconsin Department of Health Services – Division of Public Health and the local county Health Departments.

Where can I get market research to help me make business decisions?

Small Business Development Center National Information Clearinghouse (SBDCNET) serves as a resource dedicated to meeting the information needs of SBDC counselors and clients. Services include a database of forms, documents, brochures and promotional materials; secondary market research data; demographic information location; site location analysis; business plans and financial ratio information; basic patent and trademark searches; pertinent business articles, e-commerce, market research, rural business and site location training.

Whitewater University Technology Park and Innovation Center helps clients make informed decisions by providing research on market opportunities, customers and competition. They also provide incubation and coaching services. Call 262-472-5290.

As a business owner, what do I need to know about Social Security?

Social Security Administration – Business owners generally have to file estimated federal income taxes on a quarterly basis. At that time, their Social Security obligations will also be computed by filling out the quarterly estimated tax form. The maximum tax on earnings for 2006 is $94,200. The self-employed rate is 15.3%. An employer and employee each pay 7.65% towards Social Security/Medicare. For further information, call 800.772.1213 or visit their website.

Where can I access a free database of American manufacturers?

Thomas Register is the world’s largest online industrial buying source. Finding the product, service, or company you need is a snap, since the entire database of the acclaimed Thomas Register or American Manufacturers is available for your use online. You can search through 155,000 companies in the database classified under more than 55,000 product and service headings. Plus, more than 2,300 online supplier catalogs give you 40,000 pages of detailed buying and specifying information. Must complete a registration form (free) to search.

Where can I learn about unemployment, wage taxes and other workforce issues?

Department of Workforce Development offers many insights for employers about taxes and wages and other workforce issues

Where else can I learn more about starting, managing and growing my business?

  1. If you’re starting a small business, looking for financing or other help, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) contains a wealth of resources for businesses.
  2. This FAQs page from the WI Dept. of Financial Institutions offers great insights to registering a business in WI. 
  3. Start In Wisconsin is is the premier network connecting Wisconsin entrepreneurs with resources, events and experts tailored to their specific needs and based in their communities.
  4. provides customized information to help you start and operate a Wisconsin-based business. It covers licensing, permitting and regulatory requirements for the State of Wisconsin.
  5. The Doing Business page on WEDC’s site is especially helpful for information on being a business owner in Wisconsin.
  6. America’s Small Business Development Center’s website offers a Resources page with many sponsored business and education programs.


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