Most businesses starting in Wisconsin that are selling a product or offering certain services will need to register for a seller’s permit. This is commonly referred to as a seller’s permit, sales tax license, sales tax number, or sales tax registration.
The seller’s permit is obtained through the Wisconsin Department of Revenue as a part of applying for the Wisconsin Business Tax Registration. In addition to the seller’s permit, the Business Tax Registration allows a business to register for withholding tax and Use Tax Certificate.
Check out the rest of this guide to find out who needs a seller’s permit, what products and services are taxable, how to register for a permit, and reporting requirements.
Who needs a seller’s permit in Wisconsin?
A business must register for a seller’s permit in Wisconsin when making retail sales (this includes not only stores but selling locally at festivals, trade shows, and other events), leases, or rentals of tangible personal property or taxable services in Wisconsin, unless all sales are exempt from sales or use tax.
If out-of-state retailers have a physical presence (nexus) in Wisconsin, they may be required to register and collect the Wisconsin tax. This also includes sellers who have:
- Total annual sales of tangible personal property to Wisconsin residents is $100,000 or more; or
- Make 200 or more transactions with Wisconsin residents annually.
A seller’s permit will not be issued to wholesalers, manufacturers, and other businesses not making direct retail sales of tangible property or taxable services.
What products and services are taxable in Wisconsin?
There are a few exceptions, but almost all physical products are taxable when sold at retail in Wisconsin. Common examples include:
- General merchandise like furniture, appliances, and clothing
- Titled or registered items like vehicles
Certain manufacturing and agriculture equipment is tax-exempt in addition to diaper services, some groceries, prescription medicine, and medical devices.
See the full list of tax-exempt items in Wisconsin.
Labor, in most cases, isn’t taxable in Wisconsin. For instance, let’s say you broke the screen to your cell phone and take it to a cell phone repair shop to have it fixed. Sales tax would be added to the selling price of the new screen and any additional parts to fix the phone. The labor to replace the screen isn’t taxable. However, a business that makes furniture will indirectly have sales tax on labor. In this instance, let’s say this business is building a dining room table for a customer. Through labor, the pieces of wood are shaped, sanded, and painted to build this piece of furniture. While the labor isn’t directly taxable, sales tax is charged to the final selling price of the table.
Digital products are taxable in Wisconsin.
Most services aren’t taxable in Wisconsin, however, there are a few exceptions, some of which include:
- Access or use of amusement devices
- Admission to amusement, athletic, entertainment, or recreational places or events
- Landscaping and lawn maintenance services
- Laundry and dry-cleaning services
- Photography services
- Short-term lodging
- Towing services
See the full list of taxable services in Wisconsin.
How to register for a seller’s permit in Wisconsin
Information needed to register includes:
- Type of business entity: Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, Limited Liability Company (LLC)
- Business name
- Names and addresses of owners/officers/members
- Description of what products or services are being sold
- Business address
- Phone number
- North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code
- Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) from the IRS, or owner’s Social Security Number if a sole proprietorship with no employees
- Date business activities began or will begin
- Projected monthly sales
How much does a seller’s permit cost in Wisconsin?
There is no cost for a seller’s permit in Wisconsin, however before it can be applied for, the Business Tax Registration filing fee is $20.
In some cases, the Department of Revenue will require the business to obtain a security deposit before issuing the seller’s permit.
How long does it take to get a Wisconsin seller’s permit?
Expect 2-3 business days when applying online and up to three weeks when registering by mail to receive a seller’s permit.
After receiving the seller’s permit, it must be displayed in a prominent location in the business.
Do you have to renew your Wisconsin seller’s permit?
The seller’s permit is a one-time registration, and no renewals are needed. Be mindful that if any information about the business changes, such as the mailing address, additional locations, or change in ownership, those changes need to be updated with the Department of Revenue.
Sales tax reporting
How is sales tax collected?
When a business makes a sale of a taxable product or service, the business charges the appropriate sales tax rate to the customer. This tax is collected by the business who then sends it to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
How much sales tax is charged?
The sales tax rate that is charged varies depending on the address of the business if the purchase is made in the store. When shipping in-state, the sales tax is based on the address of the purchaser.
In addition to the statewide tax, there are additional local sales taxes that may be added by some counties. To find sales tax rates, see the sales tax rates by zip code from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
When are Wisconsin sales tax returns due?
The Department of Revenue will determine a filing frequency based on the expected volume of sales, which will be monthly, quarterly, or annually. Generally, a business selling over $400 each month will file monthly.
Filings are due the last day of the month following the reporting period, unless the last day of the month falls on a weekend or federal holiday, in which case would move to the next business day.
Even if the business had no sales during the reporting period, a filing is still required indicating no sales occurred.
Sales tax on purchases for resale
A business is able to purchase items to resell without paying state sales tax. The tax liability is passed from the wholesaler or distributor to the retailer, who will then charge sales tax to the end-user of the item.
Wholesalers and distributors will require a sales tax number and have the reseller fill out a Wisconsin Sales Tax Exemption Certificate to document the items being purchased are for resale.
In addition to registering for a sales tax permit, there may be other business licenses needed before starting a business in Wisconsin. Learn what business licenses are needed in Wisconsin.
If you have questions about the seller’s permit, the Department of Revenue has Publication 201 – Wisconsin Sales and Use Tax Information. They can also be contacted by calling 608-266-2776 or emailing DORBusinessTax@wisconsin.gov.