ATF Form 3: Dealer-to-Dealer Transfers
November 6, 2019
So what is an ATF form 3, exactly? It’s the way an FFL in Texas, for example, could send a short barrel rifle to an FFL in Washington for a sale or transfer products to other dealers.
So let’s look at how ATF Form 3 works, how it differs from other NFA transfer forms, and how long it takes to transfer an NFA item on an ATF Form 3.
What is the ATF Form 3?
You had to know the ATF wouldn’t make anything easy, right? Going back to our transfer scenario above, let’s say you live in Washington and you found an amazing short barrel rifle with an NFA dealer in Texas. It’s not something that’s easy to get, so you’re willing to jump through hoops to have it shipped to you.
Now with a non-NFA item, the FFL would just send it to your FFL, you’d do a background check on a 4473, and be on your merry way. But because NFA items are so encumbered in regulation, it isn’t that simple here. Now the dealer in Texas has to file an ATF Form 3 to let the ATF know they are sending this NFA item to another NFA dealer. The process is tax free and is a precursor to the individual buyer filing an ATF Form 4.
What? Another form? Yup! Once the dealer in Texas has approval to send the NFA item to your dealer in Washington, then another form has to be filled out by you, the buyer (oh, and the NFA item cannot be shipped at all until the ATF approves the Form 3).
ATF Form 3 vs. Form 4
The ATF Form 3 is for transferring an NFA item tax free from dealer to dealer, or sometimes from dealer to government agency. Once the ATF approves the Form 3 and the item is shipped to its final destination, a new set of ATF form fun begins!
You, the buyer, must fill out an ATF Form 4. The ATF Form 4 is the form that registers the NFA item to the buyer or the buyer’s gun trust, and is where the tax is paid for the NFA item. Once the ATF Form 3 is approved and the item arrives at your dealer, you fill out and submit the Form 4, then go find something to do like watching paint dry or grass grow, because NFA wait times are currently up to one year.
AFT Form 3 Wait Times
Fortunately, ATF Form 3 wait times aren’t nearly as long as Form 4 waits. When electronically filed by the transferring FFL, the ATF is processing Form 3’s in under a week.
However, old fashioned paper Form 3’s are taking around 6 months! The lesson there is to make sure the dealer you purchase from is e-filing their Form 3’s, otherwise you might die of old age before you see your NFA item.
How to Check the Status of Your Form 3
Do you want to know your Form 3 Status? The quickest way is to call the NFA branch of the ATF directly at (304) 616-4500. Be ready to provide your name or the name of your trust or corporation that you used on the application, the serial number of your NFA item and the name of the entity doing the transfer.
With that information, the ATF can roughly see where in the system your application is and give you a rough estimate on when it will be completed. Remember, each ATF Form 3 has to be inspected by a live person, so they can only move as fast as they can be read and examined. That’s why electronic ATF Form 3s are the quickest to transfer.
Unless you are an FFL with a Class 03 SOT, you’ll never see an ATF Form 3 because it’s an FFL-to-FFL or FFL-to-government agency transfer form. The ATF Form 3 allows a tax-free transfer of an NFA item to another FFL or government agency, and is almost always part of a sale to a private party at the receiving end. Once the Form 3 is approved and the NFA item transferred, the receiving FFL will then help you fill out and file an ATF Form 4 so you can get your tax stamp and have the NFA item transferred to you.
NFA buyers care about ATF Form 3’s whenever they are buying an NFA item from somebody other than their local dealer. Because the Form 3 adds complexity and wait time to the NFA buying process, it can be a weak link in the purchasing and transfer chain.
However, when electronically filed, ATF Form 3’s practically fly through the system and are just a tiny delay in a greater process. If you are an FFL holder dealing in NFA items, it is in your best interest and your customer’s to e-file your Form 3’s. If you have questions about ATF Form 3 or e-filing, our industry experts are here to help!