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ATF Form 4: Understanding NFA Transfers

October 23, 2019

by Silencer Central

BANISH 30 suppressor

ATF Form 4 is one of the most common forms that NFA firearms and silencer buyers will encounter. It’s the form that has to be filled out to transfer an NFA item like a silencer from the owner to the buyer. Often times this will be a dealer selling to a customer. Or, the silencer might be transferring from an estate to the person inheriting it, who is still required to pay the NFA tax. We’ll talk more about that later.

The ATF Form 4 allows the transfer of both Any Other Weapons (AOW’s) on a $5 tax and other things like silencers, short barrel rifles, and shotguns on the $200 tax.

What is an ATF Form 4?

If you are buying an NFA item that already exists (as opposed to making one), then you’ll have to fill out an ATF Form 4. The ATF says a Form 4 is “Typically submitted for a transfer to an individual or legal entity such as a trust.”

When you use the ATF Form 4, it is because you have purchased an NFA item from a dealer or individual, and are applying for the tax stamp and notifying the ATF of the purchase and transfer. While you buy the NFA item before you submit the Form 4, you cannot take possession of the item until the ATF approves the application and issues the tax stamp. During the application process, the NFA item will remain in the possession of the original owner.

NFA Tax Stamp

Types of Taxes On an ATF Form 4

There are two kinds of tax stamps you can apply for:

You’ll indicate which one you are applying for on the form and enter the description and serial number of the weapon. Each NFA item requires a separate form. So if you are buying (or inheriting) multiple NFA items, you’ll become familiar with ATF Form 4 pretty fast!

ATF Form 4 Wait Times

Once you’ve bought your NFA item and submitted a Form 4, it should be pretty quick, right? Well, not really. The ATF is notoriously slow at processing Form 4’s and when people check their NFA status, they find that it often takes up to a year or even longer to process!

The Advantage of Using ATF Form 4 E-File

The current state of ATF Form 4 wait times is kind of depressing. However, e-filed Form 4’s process the fastest, and that’s what we do at Silencer Central to get your silencer to you as quickly as possible. At the time of writing, e-filed Form 4s to individuals are processing about 2 months faster than those to trusts.

Most NFA firearms and silencer owners choose to register the device in the name of a trust to make shared ownership, estate planning, and temporary transfers to close friends and family easier. Well over 90 percent of Silencer Central customers opt to use our free NFA gun trusts for those reasons. But if you care more about fast processing time, you certainly can consider registering as an individual. However, there’s no guarantee about any particular wait time, as the ATF moves in the mysterious ways that only God or Government can do – and with about as much accountability.

Currently, the ATF is hiring more people and working to clear through the backlog that built up during the earlier 2019 government shutdown, so all of us in the NFA community are hoping for and expecting faster processing times as the backlog clears and more staff comes onboard.

ATF Form 4 and Estates

Sooner or later we all have to face our mortality and think about estate planning. If you own NFA items, this is very important, as the choices you make will impact how easy it is for your heirs to take ownership of your NFA items. By adding them to a trust, they can transfer on an ATF Form 5 which allows heirs to simply take ownership without paying the $5 or $200 tax per item.

However, if the estate is not set up to smoothly transfer on a Form 5, then the ATF Form 4 is used. There is a special section on Form 4 for use by people inheriting NFA items. They will have to pay the tax, though. So if you have NFA items, make sure your estate is properly set up to ensure a smooth and tax-free transfer, otherwise, you’ll need to use an ATF Form 4 — and nobody likes paying taxes.

Don’t Let NFA Wait Times Discourage You!

ATF Form 4 is used by dealers and persons selling their already existing NFA items. It can be filed electronically or by paper, and in the name of trusts, corporations, or individuals.

Presently, Form 4 wait times can be around a year due to staffing issues and temporary backlogs of applications. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy an NFA item, though. Many companies selling NFA items understand both the higher cost of an NFA firearm or silencer, as well as the long wait times, and offer handy layaway programs to make purchasing easier and take advantage of the wait time.

At Silencer Central we offer a 90-day eZ Pay payment plan that gives you 90 days to pay off the silencer you want. After all, the ATF is making us sit on it for a few months, you might as well take some of that time to pay it off the “eZ” way!

No matter if you are buying a silencer or an AOW, the ATF Form 4 is something you’ll be encountering. With any luck, the wait times will drop, but meanwhile, patience is both a virtue and a requirement for buying any sort of NFA item. However, the utility and pleasure that comes from owning an NFA item are surely well worth the wait.

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