Wisconsin Cleaning Business Start-up Laws

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This article provides three key state business startup requirements for self-employed sole proprietors and general partners who run residential house cleaning businesses. Information from the Secretary of State, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue and selected city and county government sources were used to research this article.

Be aware that sole proprietor and general partner startup requirements in this state are always changing. Some requirements even vary from county to county.  It is important that you call or visit your local county or city government to find out local requirements for residential house cleaning businesses and home-based businesses. This article is not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for qualified legal or tax advice.

Business Name Registration

A sole proprietor or general partnership that includes the owner’s full legal name(s), does not have to register their business name with the state of Wisconsin. Sole proprietors and general partners who want a business name that does not include the owner(s) full names (for example, Janice Smith’s Cleaning Service or Martha Harris and Tom Graham’s Maid Service) need to find out whether the name they want to use is available. Start with a statewide corporate business name search to avoid legal problems and customer confusion.

Then do an online search for names similar to the one you plan to use. For example, if you want to use the name, Crystal Clean Maid Service, do simple Google searches for “Crystal Clean Maid Service+Wisconsin” plus Crystal Clean Maid Service+your county” and “Crystal Clean Maid Service+your town or city”. Search beyond the first page of results. Go at least five pages deep into the search results to see if the name you want or similar names are being used in your state, county or city.

If the company name is available, the Trade Name application can be filled online or the form can be printed and filled out by hand. The application must be signed ONLY in the presence of a notary public. Then file it with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). When the application is processed, a Trade Name/Trademark Certificate and confirmation will be emailed or mailed to you and the information will be posted on the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions website. Register online. 

In the state of Wisconsin, filing a Trade Name with the state does not guarantee a business sole rights to the use of that name. Wisconsin Trade Name/Trademark ownership and rights are gained through usage, not through registration. Other businesses in the state may also register the same Trade Name. Registered businesses are expected to legally defend their trade names.

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Business License Registration

Sole proprietors and general partners do not have to apply for a business license with the state of Wisconsin.  House cleaning businesses should check with the local city or county Register of Deeds for local licensing requirements.  Find a county Register of Deeds in Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin, a general partnership is created when two or more owners form an oral or written agreement to start a business together. While general partners are not required to file any documents with the Secretary of State, it is advisable to file for a Trade Name certificate. A written partnership agreement drawn up by a lawyer is important for both or all partners. Partnership agreements do not have to be filed with the state.

Sole proprietors and general partners may apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS even if they do not plan to hire employees. Getting an EIN may make it easier to open a bank account and reduce your risk of identity theft. You can apply for an EIN online. In addition, some business registration forms will require a NAICS business classification number for the house cleaning industry.

Business Tax Registration

Sole proprietors and general partners must register with the Department of Revenue.

Residential house cleaning services are not taxable in the state of Wisconsin. Cleaning businesses do not have to collect and send sales taxes to the Department of Revenue.

Sole proprietors and general partners pay tax on business income to the state of Wisconsin through their personal state tax return. Sole proprietors and general partners are responsible for paying estimated self-employment income taxes in Wisconsin (on Form 1-ES) similar to the way self employment taxes are paid to the federal government. Get more information about estimated tax requirements by calling the Wisconsin Department of Revenue at (608) 266-2486.

Wisconsin general partnerships that file a Federal partnership information Form 1065, may need to file state income tax Form 3. Get more information from a CPA or qualified tax preparer to find out if your partnership must file those returns.

Selected Wisconsin City Licenses

Appleton Business License: The city of Appleton does not require a business license for house cleaning services.

Eau Claire Business License: The city of Eau Claire does not require a business license for house cleaning services.

Green Bay Business License: The city of Green Bay does not require a business license for house cleaning services.

Kenosha Business License: The city of Kenosha does not require a business license for house cleaning services.

Madison Business License: The city of Madison does not require a business license for house cleaning services.

Milwaukee Business License: The city of Milwaukee does not require a business license for house cleaning services.

Racine Business License: The city of Racine does not require a business license for house cleaning services.

Waukesha Business License: The city of Waukesha does not require a business license for house cleaning services.

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