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ATF Form 4 eForms Set to Return in 2021

ATF Form 4 eForms Set to Return in 2021

Everything’s digital these days. Well, almost everything. The ATF has partially entered the 21st century by way of e-forms. On their website, you can digitally file any of the following: Forms 1, 2, 3, 5 (Gov Only), 6, 6A, 9, 10, and 5300.11. Notably absent is the Form 4, Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration, which is what you need to complete to purchase a suppressor. The good news is that an all-digital Form 4 program has been fully funded since early 2019 and is expected to be up and running in the next couple of months.

Whether you’ve been doing everything online for decades or you’re reading this article as part of your very first foray into the internet, we’re here to tell you everything you need to know about e-forms.

Why Use E-Forms?

The National Firearms Act, under which suppressors are regulated, has been around since 1934. Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House and paper was king. Of course, now we’re well established in the 21st century, and computers and the internet have changed everything.

It’s often said that “we’ve always done it that way” is a dangerous phrase in business, and it holds true for suppressor paperwork. Read on for some of the advantages of e-forms.

E-Forms are Significantly Faster than Traditional Forms

With traditional forms, you’ve got to fill all of the paperwork out by hand, send it off in the mail, and wait for it to be delivered to the ATF before your wait process can begin. E-forms take most of that initial wait away, and when you’re dealing with the ATF, any reduction in wait time is a good thing!

E-Forms are Easier and More Convenient than Mailing Paper

Traditional forms require you to fill out your paperwork by hand, find an envelope that it will all fit into, drive to the post office, wait in line, have an employee calculate your postage (which is almost always an oddly-specific number, like $12.68), pay for the privilege of sending the documents to the government, then wait for your paperwork to make its way across the country before being delivered to the ATF.

Or, you could fill out your forms on your computer, pay your associated fees, and file your paperwork with the ATF all without having to get up off the couch.

Get Started!

How a Current Form 1 Works via eForms

Any time you have to fill out government paperwork, it can feel daunting and nerve-wracking, but it doesn’t have to be that way! We’ll walk you through the steps to fill out the e-forms in a way that is decidedly not daunting or nerve-wracking. OK, let’s get started (and if you want to skip filling out paperwork altogether, buy your silencer from Silencer Central and we’ll fill it out for you).

Step #1
Create an account.
Visit www.eforms.atf.gov and register for the site by choosing a user ID and a password, just like you would with any other website.

Step #2
Start an ATF form.
Once you’re logged into the site, you can scroll through the available forms until you find the applicable Form 4. Click on it to begin.

Step #3
Choose your applicant type.
This is where you’ll decide if you’re going to apply as an individual or as an entity such as a trust.

Step #4
Select your type of application.
This is where you’ll indicate that you will be paying the $200 fee for a suppressor.

Step #5
Fill out the applicant form.
This is similar to a 4473 for the purchase/transfer of a firearm. It’s basically a self-acknowledgment that you’re not a criminal.

Step #6
Designate your Responsible Persons.
This is the spot where you’ll indicate any other people who can/will legally have access to your suppressor(s). Generally, this is a spouse.

Step #7
Upload your photo.
Just like the paper forms, you still need to submit a 2”x2” passport-style photo. Simply take one on your phone, crop it to size, and upload it to the system.

Step #8
Enter your CLEO information.
CLEO stands for “Chief Law Enforcement Officer.” You’ll need to look up the contact and mailing information for the CLEO where you live. Once everything in this process is finalized, they’ll email you the form that you need to print out and mail to your CLEO.

Step #9
Fill out the application.
This is where you finally start entering information specific to your suppressor(s). This will include make, model, caliber, serial number, and so forth.

Step #10
Upload your completed documents.
Compile all of your associated paperwork and make sure it’s been entered into the system properly. This could include items like your photo, trust documents, etc.

Step #11
Certify and pay.
This is where you check the box that says you filled out everything truthfully under penalty of perjury. Once you check that box, you’ll then be taken to a screen where you will enter your payment information for the $200 tax stamp.

Step #12
Sign and submit.
After paying, you’ll come back to the certification page where you’ll sign the final paperwork and submit it.

Step #13
Verify your submission.
This screen will let you look at the application that you just submitted so that you can double (or triple) check and make sure you did everything correctly.

Step #14
CLEO, cover letter, and fingerprints.
You’ll receive an email that has the letter you need to print out and mail to your CLEO, as well as a cover letter that you need to send along with your fingerprints. You can choose to have your prints done at the local police station or you can order print cards and ink and do them yourself.

The documents in this step are the only ones that require you to do something that isn’t on your computer. The CLEO and fingerprint cards have to be sent physically by mail. There’s no time deadline for the CLEO letter, but the fingerprints must be mailed within 10 business days of your application.

Step #15
Wait for approval.
Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and wait for the ATF to process your application. No one can say for sure how long it’ll take, but one thing’s for sure with e-forms: it’ll be a little bit faster than using paper forms.

When Will Eforms be Back Online?

The good news is that funding for an all-digital Form 4 program has been fully funded since early 2019, and is expected to be up and running Fall of 2021. While the ATF’s official statement says that “an implementation date for these changes has not been determined,” some say it could be as soon as August 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Check out some of the most frequent ones here:

What is ATF Final Rule 41F?

At the beginning of this piece, we mentioned that the ATF disabled Form 4 eForms in 2015 in response to updates that needed to be made so that it would be in compliance with 41F, which took effect in 2016. Essentially, 41F rules that “responsible persons” would now be required to undergo background checks, submit fingerprint cards, and passport photos, just like the person who purchased the suppressor, but it removed law enforcement sign-off and replaced it with law enforcement notification. This meant that chief law enforcement officers would no longer be able to enforce de-facto NFA bans within their jurisdictions by denying applications to individuals without a trust.

So, 41F is a mixed bag, but it isn’t something that cannot be overcome. And, if we take the ATF’s word for it, 41F will not be an eForm Form 4 hurdle forever, just for now.

Why does Form 4 approval take so long right now?

There are a lot of components and moving parts in a Form 4 application, and no single agent completes the entire approval process by themselves. Each agent has to physically have your application in their hands to work on it, so this translates into the ATF physically touching each application more than 40 times before the entire process is complete.

Once the Form 4 eForms go live, your application will exist as a digital upload, meaning that it can be accessed by multiple people at the ATF at the same time. No longer will each step of the process be held up by the step before it. This way, agents can actually collaborate, as it were, on a given Form 4 to help it move along more quickly.

Will paper forms speed up when Form 4 eForms go live?

Anything is possible, but we believe that it will simply balance out and be the same processing time for both paper and electronic forms. Because paper forms will still have to be physically handled as mentioned above, that process will always be slower, but because eForms are faster, the hope is that it will free up ATF agent time to work on more paper forms.

The regular wait for a Form 4 is anywhere between 250 and 370 days. While your exact wait time may vary, we’ve seen approvals coming in closer to the 250-day-mark than the 370-day-mark. Once the Form 4 is available digitally, we hope to see the approval times come down dramatically, but only time will tell.

What about current pending paper applications?

If you’ve already got a traditional paper Form 4 pending in the ATF system, don’t worry! They’re not going to forget about you. In fact, we believe that the ATF will put more manpower behind catching up before they go live with the electronic version. This is in their best interest to prevent a big backlog of either type.

How will I know when I’ve been approved?

Both you and your chosen dealer (such as Silencer Central, hint hint) will receive notification of approval via email. The dealer will be notified at their business email address and you will be notified at the email address that you used to register for the ATF’s website.

How do I remove users from ATF e-forms online?

Since the Form 4 isn’t online yet, we cannot say for sure how this will work. More info will be posted here as it becomes available.

How long do ATF e-forms take to get approved?

The Form 4 isn’t yet an e-form, so we can’t know for sure. However, the regular wait for a Form 4 is anywhere between 250 and 370 days. While your exact wait time may vary, we’ve seen approvals coming in closer to the 250-day-mark than the 370-day-mark. Once it is available digitally, we hope to see the approval times come down dramatically, but only time will tell.

How do I know when an e-form is approved?

You’ll receive an email at the address you used to register and fill out your forms once you’ve been approved.

Why are e-forms currently offline?

The e-forms Form 4 system crashed in 2015 and never reappeared. Why it is taking so long to get it back up and running is anybody’s guess, but per the usual, nothing in the government moves fast.

Buying a Silencer? Let Us Handle the Paperwork

While it might be tempting to wait for the Form 4 eForm to come back online, we recommend starting your silencer purchase as soon as possible.

Why? Well, for starters, you’re going to wait no matter what, so you might as well get the ball rolling now. Plus, things can change. While the Form 4 eForm is supposed to be available in the Fall of 2021, the rollout might get pushed back.

If that happens, you’ll have to go the traditional paper form route and will have needlessly added extra wait time to the whole process. That’s extra time when you could have already been enjoying your new suppressor!

No matter what happens, Silencer Central is more than ready to adapt to the situation. In fact, we’re ahead of the curve. Here’s how:

We’ve already been using the file format that the ATF is going to be requesting when the new system goes live.
We will be able to use your fingerprints that are on file from previous purchases to make the process even easier!
We’ve been using a program to capture fingerprint files for more than five years, so we’ve got it down pat.

At Silencer Central, we are passionate about compliance, knowledge, and community education in firearm sound suppression. With more than 15 years of experience in the industry, we are the nation’s largest silencer dealer. We’re also the only one licensed in all 42 suppressor-legal states that can sell, process, and ship your new suppressor directly to your door.

Like all things in life, there’s always something more to learn. Hopefully, the information in this article helped answer a lot of your questions. Of course, it’s also possible that it brought some new questions to mind that you hadn’t thought of before. Or, we might have overlooked your question altogether. Whatever the case, we’re here to answer any and all of your questions.

Our experts are ready to help you by phone or email, Monday through Thursday from 8:30am – 8pm, Friday and Saturday from 8:30am-5pm(CT).

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