NFATCA Report: The NFA and Forms Processing
By John Brown

On the NFATCA’s first visit to Martinsburg, we had an amazing meeting with the examiners where we opened the floor for discussion on how the NFA community could help the examiners. In the next two articles we will examine that feedback and detail some problems and recommendations on helping to speed up forms processing with virtually any type of form that the ATF must deal with. There is no question that things have greatly improved. The stories of form three transfers being back in dealers hands after 72 hours are absolutely true. Nevertheless, there is a lot of work that we as NFA owners can do to improve on the entire issue of forms processing.

Interestingly enough in our meeting with the examiners, we were told that nearly 50% of the transfers that come to Martinsburg have some kind of problem that prevent them from being processed immediately. This is a staggering statistic. How could so many dealers in our community who are keeping spotless records be responsible for letting so many errors get funneled through NFA? Digging into the quandary revealed a primary source of the problem. Many dealers are simply passing along the forms to their buyers to complete who then send the forms in to Chicago and the dealer has no means to check for accuracy. The variable for error in all of the individual lines of the forms and the other required documents, with no quality control process, will insure the increase in risk for numerous errors. And when there is a problem, where does the form end up for correction? Right back in the dealers’ hands.

Many of you will not agree with this, but when your dealer is ultimately responsible for the forms and their accuracy, and correcting the mistakes, then make certain that your dealer checks every thing on every form that you must send in. If you insist on sending them in yourself, fine. But, make certain that you have the experience of your dealer in making sure that the transfer is done right the first time it is sent in. In a recent survey of some of the NFATCA membership we found that many dealers handle the entire process including the mailing, the tax check, and all aspects of a complete package that gets sent to Chicago. This is a great idea and is really how it should be. If you trust your dealer enough to spend as much money as many of you spend on a single NFA item, then trust them to handle your paperwork. They have the experience and the knowledge to ensure a trouble free transfer.

Another problem point that came up during the feedback was the literally hundreds of daily calls that come in to NFA to check the status of a transfer. We found that most of the calls are repeat calls by those who that think that once their check has been cashed, the “game is on.” It must be realized that every single call stops the processing of someone’s form. Let your dealer make the call. They know better than to call repeatedly.

We found that many dealers are simply circling the “DO NOT” give permission for the transferee to check on the status of the transfer. We could not agree more. This is a simple step that can help our examiners free up much more time to process our transfers. In short, leave the follow up with your dealer and leave the examiners alone.

On many occasions when transferees call and find out their transfer is approved, they call their dealer and say, “I found out my transfer is approved. I want to come over and pick up my gun.” Unfortunately, the postal service has yet to catch up to NFA in speed and accuracy. Sometimes, a form four can take as long as two weeks to reach the mailbox after being mailed. The dealer will contact you just as soon as he receives the approved forms.

The last issue we will deal with in this portion of working with the NFA is putting together the forms themselves. One of the many holdups with the forms that are processed are the ones that are still filled out in long hand. The problem is simple: many forms that are manually written just can’t be read and they don’t have the time to decipher chicken scratches and guess or interpret as to what is written. These forms will inevitably get sent back for correction and/or clarification. With all of the technology available today through web services such as Danbrew’s forms on Subguns.com, this should really no longer be a problem. Before the advent of computer technology, it is no small wonder we have so many issues with the National Registry. Most of the dealers in the NFA community have a computer and have access to the internet. A PC and a good printer will produce a product that you will be proud to send in for processing. If the form must be filled out manually, then please print the information clearly and legibly.

Nest month we will continue with the philosophy and the questions of what can we do in the NFA community to develop a more collaborative effort with the NFA Branch; and make everyone’s job easier.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V10N1 (October 2006)
and was posted online on January 18, 2013


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