How to obtain a business license in Wisconsin

Updated on December 21, 2023


Securing a business license is crucial for legal operation in Wisconsin. This guide provides comprehensive insights into licensing requirements, application processes, costs, necessary documents, compliance, and industry-specific considerations in Wisconsin.

Who Needs a Business License in Wisconsin

Most commercial business entities require licensing in WI including retailers, restaurants, service companies, rental property owners, contractors, and independent professionals.

Penalties for non-compliance include fines up to $500 per violation after initial warning, potential business closure after multiple offenses, and possible criminal charges.

Understanding Wisconsin Business Licenses

Common Wisconsin licenses needed:

  • Seller’s permits – To collect and charge sales tax
  • Local licenses – Varies across WI municipalities
  • Professional/vocational licenses – For services like cosmetology, healthcare, accounting, law etc.
  • Industry permits – Agriculture, liquor, gambling etc

Preparing to Apply for a License

Utilize Wisconsin’s Business Registration Tool to determine necessary permits and registrations. Prepare business formation documents, ownership details, lease agreements, and financial statements. Fees vary by license type.

Step-By-Step Guide to Apply

To apply for licenses in Wisconsin, visit the BUSINESS Portal, use the Registration Tool, select your required licenses, provide business information, pay fees, and await approval.\

To apply online:

  1. Access Wisconsin’s BUSINESS Portal
  2. Use the Registration Tool
  3. Select required license types
  4. Provide requested business and owner details
  5. Pay fees
  6. Obtain approvals

After Submitting an Application

Online applications typically process within 15 days after submitting all documentation. Check your status via BUSINESS Portal.

If issues occur, administrators contact applicants by mail, email or phone to resolve concerns.

Maintaining Compliance

To remain legally compliant in Wisconsin once licensed:

  • Prominently display licenses onsite
  • Renew licenses annually prior to expiration
  • Remit timely tax, licensing and permit payments
  • Report changes in ownership, activities or locations

Obtaining Federal Registrations

Don’t forget federal registrations such as an Employer ID Number (EIN) and trademark protections in Wisconsin.

Special Considerations

Verify specific licensing requirements for businesses like liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries, and casinos with Wisconsin regulatory agencies.

Registering Your Business Name

File trade name certificates via the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions if operating under “Doing Business As” names.

Wisconsin Tax Permits

Common tax registrations include Seller’s Permits, Alcohol Beverage Permits, and Motor Fuel Licenses.


Who Needs a Wisconsin Business License? Most commercial entities in Wisconsin, including retailers, contractors, and hospitality companies, require a license.

What Do Licenses Cost in Wisconsin? License fees in Wisconsin range from $25 to over $1,000, depending on the type of license. Multiyear discounts are sometimes available.

Final Thoughts

Adhering to licensing protocols in Wisconsin is essential for legal operation and avoiding penalties. Utilize digital registration options for efficient processing.

Priyank Singh

Priyank Singh, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Stilt, specializes in technology-driven financial solutions. He is having experience of starting FinTech Company, understanding regulations and coming up with creative solutions to solve difficult problems.