Wisconsin Nonprofit Compliance

Required annual filings

This guide covers the required filings to maintain a nonprofit corporation in Wisconsin. If you are looking to form nonprofit in Wisconsin, please visit our Start Your Wisconsin Nonprofit guide. The steps below apply to nonprofits that are both incorporated and foreign qualified in Wisconsin. Please note that this is a general list and may not be exhaustive or applicable to all nonprofits.

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1 File IRS Form 990
Agency:Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Form:

IRS Form 990-N, 990-EZ, 990-PF or 990

Instructions:

See Form 990 Thresholds to determine which form to file.  Then see Current Form 990 Series for instructions.

Due:

By the 15th day of the 5th month following the end of the taxable year.  For most organizations, the tax year ends December 31 so the Form 990 is due May 15.

Fact Checked:8/28/19
2 File Wisconsin Corporate Tax Exemption Renewals

Not required



There is no renewal requirement for Wisconsin corporate income tax exemption.

More information: Wisconsin Department of Revenue
3 File Wisconsin Sales Tax Exemption Renewals

Not required



More information: Wisconsin Department of Revenue
4 File Wisconsin Annual Report

If the nonprofit was formed in Wisconsin (Domestic):

Agency:Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) - Corporation Section
Form:

Use the form that WDFI mailed your registered agent or file online. Annual report forms are not available for downloading from the WDFI website. Call (608) 261-7577 to request a replacement form.

Filing Method:

Mail or online.

Agency Fee:

$10

Turnaround:

About 5 business days.

Due:

Annually by the end of the registration anniversary quarter. So if you incorporated or foreign-qualified on February 15, then your annual report is due every year by the end of the first quarter on March 31. The due dates are March 31, June 30, September 30, and December 31.

Law:

Wisconsin Stat. § 181.1622

Notes:
  • Anyone with authority may file.
  • Original signatures are not required.
Fact Checked:9/10/18

If the nonprofit was formed outside of Wisconsin (Foreign):

Agency:Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) - Corporation Section
Form:

Use the form that WDFI mailed your registered agent or file online. Annual report forms are not available for downloading from the WDFI website. Call (608) 261-7577 to request a replacement form.

Filing Method:

Mail or online.

Agency Fee:

$15

Turnaround:

About 5 business days.

Due:

Annually by March 31. 

Law:

Wisconsin Stat. § 181.1622

Notes:
  • Anyone with authority may file.
  • Original signatures are not required.
Fact Checked:9/10/18
5 Renew the Charitable Solicitation Registration

Wisconsin Charitable Organization Registration

Agency:Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions - Division of Banking
Law:

Wisconsin Statutes Ch.202; Wisconsin Administrative Code, Chapter RL 5

Foreign Qualification is Prerequisite:No
Registered Agent (Special Agency) Required?No
Fact Checked:4/10/20

Automatic Exemption

Exemption Eligible Organizations:
  • A person that is exempt from filing a federal annual information return under section 6033 (a) (3) (A) (i) and (iii) and (C) (i) of the Internal Revenue Code
  • A candidate for national, state, or local office or a political party or other committee or group required to file financial information with the federal elections commission or a filing officer under s. 11.0102 (1)
  • Charitable organizations which do not intend to raise or actually receive contributions in excess of $25,000 during a fiscal year and all of their functions are performed by volunteers and no assets or income are paid to any officer or member of the charitable organization
  • A fraternal, civic, benevolent, patriotic, or social organization that solicits contributions solely from its membership
  • A veterans organization incorporated under ch. 188 or chartered under federal law or the service foundation of such an organization recognized in the bylaws of the organization
  • A nonprofit, postsecondary educational institution accredited by a regional accrediting agency or association approved under 20 USC 1099b, or an educational institution and its authorized charitable foundations that solicit contributions only from its students and their families, alumni, faculty, trustees, corporations, foundations, and patients
  • A person soliciting contributions for the relief of a named individual if all contributions, without any deductions, are given to the named individual
  • A state agency, as defined in s. 20.001 (1), or a local governmental unit, as defined in s. 605.01 (1)
  • A private school, as defined in s. 118.165
  • Any corporation established by an act of the United States Congress that is required by federal law to submit to Congress annual reports, fully audited by the United States Department of Defense
Law:

WI Stat § 202.12(5)

Fact Checked:1/16/20

Initial Registration

Form:

Form 296: Charitable Organization Registration Application

Filing Method:

Mail

Agency Fee:

$15

Turnaround:

4-6 weeks

Notes:
  • Note the list of 17 attachments that first-time registrants must attach to the application. This includes disclosing contracts with professional fundraisers.
  • The Preseident and CFO must sign. Signatures must be notarized.
  • Some Wisconsin counties and municipalities may require charities that solicit in-person to register prior to fundraising.
Before you Apply:

Domestic Applicants:

  • Check the available exemptions to see if your charity is eligible for exemption from the full registration requirement.
  • If your charity meets the audit threshold, obtain an audited financial report to submit with your registration application.
  • Look through the list of required attachments and make sure that you have each required document in hand before starting the registration application.

Foreign Applicants:

  • Check the available exemptions to see if your charity is eligible for exemption from the full registration requirement.
  • If your charity meets the audit threshold, obtain an audited financial report to submit with your registration application.
  • Look through the list of required attachments and make sure that you have each required document in hand before starting the registration application.
  • If you will foreign qualify in Wisconsin, obtain a certificate of good standing from your home state to submit during the foreign qualification process. The certificate cannot be more than 60 days old when filing foreign qualification documents.
How to Apply:

Domestic Applicants:

  1. File entity formation documents with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) - Corporation Section.
  2. Submit a Charitable Organization Registration Application and all required attachments to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions - Division of Banking.

Foreign Applicants:

  1. Determine whether or not your charity will need to foreign qualify based on your activity in Wisconsin. If not required, skip to number 3.
  2. File foreign qualification documents with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) - Corporation Section.
  3. Submit a Charitable Organization Registration Application and all required attachments to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions - Division of Banking.
Required Attachments:

  • IRS form 990
  • Audited financials (if applicable)
  • Articles of incorporation
  • Bylaws
  • IRS determination letter (or IRS form 1023 if exemption is pending)
  • List of officers and directors
  • Professional fundraising contracts
  • A certificate of good standing from the organization's home state
  • Certificate of incorporation
  • List of other states where registered to solicit
Fact Checked:4/14/20

Registration Renewal
Charitable Registration Renewal

Filing Method:

Online

Agency Fee:

$54

Due:

Annually by July 31. An organization that files an initial registration on or after June 1 does not need to renew their registration until the following calendar year. If an initial registration is filed before June 1, renewal must be filed by July 31 of the same calendar year.

Due Date Extension:

Wisconsin does not grant extensions for charitable organization registration.

Penalties:

There is a $25 late fee.

Notes:
  • There are two renewal filings for charitable organizations: charitable registration renewal and charitable organization annual report.
  • This annual renewal is different than the corporate annual financial report filed with DFI.
  • The renewal period closes September 30th. After this date, you must file a new initial registration.
  • You may not file for an extension of the due date.
  • A CPA audit is required for large nonprofits.
Required Attachments:

  • List of officers and directors
Fact Checked:2/4/20

Registration Renewal
Charitable Organization Annual Financial Report

Form:

Annual Financial Reports may be filed on one of three forms that your firm can use based on qualifying factors.

Filing Method:

Mail.

Agency Fee:

$0

Due:

You must file an annual financial report within 12 months after the close of your fiscal year if you received >$5,000 in contributions.

Notes:
  • There are two renewal filings for charitable organizations: charitable registration renewal and charitable organization annual report.
Required Attachments:

  • IRS form 990
  • Audited financials (if applicable)
Fact Checked:2/4/20

Change of Fiscal Year

Form:

Form 1952 or Form 308

Agency Fee:

$0

Turnaround:

1-2 business days

Notes:

Submit the short year financials during the standard renewal process.

Fact Checked:12/7/18

Cancellation

Agency Fee:

$0

Notes:

To close out your registration, send a letter including the charity name, FEIN, date of closure, and reason for closure in writing.

Fact Checked:7/14/20
6 Renew the Charitable Solicitation Registration

Wisconsin Charitable Organization Registration

Agency:Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions - Division of Banking
Law:

Wisconsin Statutes Ch.202; Wisconsin Administrative Code, Chapter RL 5

Foreign Qualification is Prerequisite:No
Registered Agent (Special Agency) Required?No
Fact Checked:4/10/20

Automatic Exemption

Exemption Eligible Organizations:
  • A person that is exempt from filing a federal annual information return under section 6033 (a) (3) (A) (i) and (iii) and (C) (i) of the Internal Revenue Code
  • A candidate for national, state, or local office or a political party or other committee or group required to file financial information with the federal elections commission or a filing officer under s. 11.0102 (1)
  • Charitable organizations which do not intend to raise or actually receive contributions in excess of $25,000 during a fiscal year and all of their functions are performed by volunteers and no assets or income are paid to any officer or member of the charitable organization
  • A fraternal, civic, benevolent, patriotic, or social organization that solicits contributions solely from its membership
  • A veterans organization incorporated under ch. 188 or chartered under federal law or the service foundation of such an organization recognized in the bylaws of the organization
  • A nonprofit, postsecondary educational institution accredited by a regional accrediting agency or association approved under 20 USC 1099b, or an educational institution and its authorized charitable foundations that solicit contributions only from its students and their families, alumni, faculty, trustees, corporations, foundations, and patients
  • A person soliciting contributions for the relief of a named individual if all contributions, without any deductions, are given to the named individual
  • A state agency, as defined in s. 20.001 (1), or a local governmental unit, as defined in s. 605.01 (1)
  • A private school, as defined in s. 118.165
  • Any corporation established by an act of the United States Congress that is required by federal law to submit to Congress annual reports, fully audited by the United States Department of Defense
Law:

WI Stat § 202.12(5)

Fact Checked:1/16/20

Initial Registration

Form:

Form 296: Charitable Organization Registration Application

Filing Method:

Mail

Agency Fee:

$15

Turnaround:

4-6 weeks

Notes:
  • Note the list of 17 attachments that first-time registrants must attach to the application. This includes disclosing contracts with professional fundraisers.
  • The Preseident and CFO must sign. Signatures must be notarized.
  • Some Wisconsin counties and municipalities may require charities that solicit in-person to register prior to fundraising.
Before you Apply:

Domestic Applicants:

  • Check the available exemptions to see if your charity is eligible for exemption from the full registration requirement.
  • If your charity meets the audit threshold, obtain an audited financial report to submit with your registration application.
  • Look through the list of required attachments and make sure that you have each required document in hand before starting the registration application.

Foreign Applicants:

  • Check the available exemptions to see if your charity is eligible for exemption from the full registration requirement.
  • If your charity meets the audit threshold, obtain an audited financial report to submit with your registration application.
  • Look through the list of required attachments and make sure that you have each required document in hand before starting the registration application.
  • If you will foreign qualify in Wisconsin, obtain a certificate of good standing from your home state to submit during the foreign qualification process. The certificate cannot be more than 60 days old when filing foreign qualification documents.
How to Apply:

Domestic Applicants:

  1. File entity formation documents with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) - Corporation Section.
  2. Submit a Charitable Organization Registration Application and all required attachments to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions - Division of Banking.

Foreign Applicants:

  1. Determine whether or not your charity will need to foreign qualify based on your activity in Wisconsin. If not required, skip to number 3.
  2. File foreign qualification documents with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) - Corporation Section.
  3. Submit a Charitable Organization Registration Application and all required attachments to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions - Division of Banking.
Required Attachments:

  • IRS form 990
  • Audited financials (if applicable)
  • Articles of incorporation
  • Bylaws
  • IRS determination letter (or IRS form 1023 if exemption is pending)
  • List of officers and directors
  • Professional fundraising contracts
  • A certificate of good standing from the organization's home state
  • Certificate of incorporation
  • List of other states where registered to solicit
Fact Checked:4/14/20

Registration Renewal
Charitable Registration Renewal

Filing Method:

Online

Agency Fee:

$54

Due:

Annually by July 31. An organization that files an initial registration on or after June 1 does not need to renew their registration until the following calendar year. If an initial registration is filed before June 1, renewal must be filed by July 31 of the same calendar year.

Due Date Extension:

Wisconsin does not grant extensions for charitable organization registration.

Penalties:

There is a $25 late fee.

Notes:
  • There are two renewal filings for charitable organizations: charitable registration renewal and charitable organization annual report.
  • This annual renewal is different than the corporate annual financial report filed with DFI.
  • The renewal period closes September 30th. After this date, you must file a new initial registration.
  • You may not file for an extension of the due date.
  • A CPA audit is required for large nonprofits.
Required Attachments:

  • List of officers and directors
Fact Checked:2/4/20

Registration Renewal
Charitable Organization Annual Financial Report

Form:

Annual Financial Reports may be filed on one of three forms that your firm can use based on qualifying factors.

Filing Method:

Mail.

Agency Fee:

$0

Due:

You must file an annual financial report within 12 months after the close of your fiscal year if you received >$5,000 in contributions.

Notes:
  • There are two renewal filings for charitable organizations: charitable registration renewal and charitable organization annual report.
Required Attachments:

  • IRS form 990
  • Audited financials (if applicable)
Fact Checked:2/4/20

Change of Fiscal Year

Form:

Form 1952 or Form 308

Agency Fee:

$0

Turnaround:

1-2 business days

Notes:

Submit the short year financials during the standard renewal process.

Fact Checked:12/7/18

Cancellation

Agency Fee:

$0

Notes:

To close out your registration, send a letter including the charity name, FEIN, date of closure, and reason for closure in writing.

Fact Checked:7/14/20
7Maintain a Wisconsin Registered Agent

Maintain a registered agent that has a street address in Wisconsin. The registered agent is responsible for receiving legal documents such as service of process. Appointing a registered agent service is often preferable to listing an officer or director, as their information often changes. Consider using our registered agent service in Appleton , WI to maintain compliance with the state requirement.


Continue reading

Fundraising Compliance

Learn how to stay compliant with charitable solicitation laws.

Read the guide
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