Wisconsin is a paradise for start-ups as it offers several benefits and a wide variety of incentives. In order to set up a business and make it operational, you will need to
- Register your business first
- Ensure you have a proper business license
It is important to know that every Wisconsin start-up doesn’t require a business license, however certain businesses may require single or multiple licenses or permits. Some of these permits and licenses are regulatory in nature i.e., they cover specific business activity. The regulatory licenses and permits are issued by different state agencies while the tax-related licenses are issued by the Department of Revenue (DOR). There are business activity specific licenses and permits issued by divisions of the Department of Health Services and Department of Natural Resources.
The question is, how do you know what type of Wisconsin company license or permit you require and which state agency is responsible for issuing it.
Step-by-Step Guide to a Business License in Wisconsin
Here is a step-by-step approach towards acquiring a business license in the state of Wisconsin:
Step#1: The Industry or Business Type
How would you know what type of business or professional license is required to operate in Wisconsin? The type of industry or the activities of a business entity helps in identifying the type of business license required.
The license or permit can be obtained from various state agencies directly depending on the type of business you have. Let’s take a look at some examples to understand this better:
Food, Dairy & Restaurant Licenses
Issued by: State of Wisconsin, Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP)
The Wisconsin company license that fall under this category varies according to the type of business activity. Let’s take a look at some of the different types of business activities and the license fee.
- Butter maker – Fee: $75 (2 years)
- Cheese maker – Fee: $75 (2 years)
Food Processing Plant License (Wholesale) – Fee: The business license fee varies based on the annual production like the fee for annual production of at least $250,000 is $835 and there is also a “License Surcharge” of $100. More Information
Food Retail License/ Retail Food Establishment – Fee: The business license fee varies based on total food sales like the fee for food sales of at least $25,000 but less than $1,000,000 is $265 and there is also a “License Surcharge” of $100. More Information
Alcohol Beverage License
License Issued by: State of Wisconsin, Department of Revenue
The retail business license allows sale of alcohol beverages to individual retail customers, from a specific place or premises. The alcohol beverage licenses can be classified as under:
- “Class A” liquor licenses
- “Class “A” fermented malt beverage licenses
- “Class A” (cider only) licenses
- “Class B” liquor licenses
- “Class C” wine licenses
- Temporary Class B licenses often known as picnic licenses
Fee: The fees for a business license in Wisconsin for alcoholic beverages are set by local municipalities, within the limits set by the state law. A Class “B” Beer retailer license has a fee of $100 per year while that of a Temporary Class “B” (beer) license is $10. There is also a “Reserve” Class B intoxicating liquor license where the minimum fee is $10,000.
Step#2: Licenses issued by City/County
If your business or industry type doesn’t fall under a statewide license then you will have to check with the local city or county office. A Wisconsin company license can also be issued by local counties or cities in which the business is located. Let’s look at an example to understand how this works.
If you are planning to establish your business in Madison & Dane County then you will have to apply for a business license through Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC). There following licenses or permits are issued in these counties:
- Bed & Breakfasts
- Short-term Rentals: Tourist Rooming Houses
- Restaurants and Retail Stores
- Farmers’ Markets
- Mobile Food Establishments
- Temporary Food Stands
- Tattoo & Body Piercing Licensing
- Water, Well & Septic Permits
You can check the fee for your business license in Wisconsin here.
Step#3: Issuance of a Business License
How is a business license in Wisconsin issued? You have to identify the following to complete the process:
- The type of business or industry
- Do you need a license or a permit?
- Will it be issued by the state or the city or county?
Once you have identified the above, all you need to do is either download the application online or contact the concerned state department or city of clerk office.
It is important to note that a business license or permit will have to be renewed annually unless specific dates have been mentioned, to keep the business operational.