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ATF has recently announced that their release of their new and highly anticipated eForm 4, electronic Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration, will be unveiled this month. Currently, only Forms 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 9 can be submitted using the eForms system, and only for a somewhat narrow subset of the full scope of situations or transactions that those forms may be used for in totality. As most private consumer transactions concerning NFA firearms are done on a statutory tax-paid basis, the impending availability of electronic Form 4s will be a potential game changer for the NFA industry—and the suppressor industry in particular—given their special popularity amongst the hunting and general consumer market.

For years, the ATF has been appropriated funding by Congress to improve and expand their existing eForms system to be both more comprehensive in scope and user friendly in its interface, and the industry and public alike have been waiting eagerly for the release of the eForm 4—as the most widely used form for private purchasers—for several years now. ATF’s release of the new eForm 4 is anticipated to be highly beneficial for both the industry and consumers alike.

The following research provided by FRAC’s sources shows recent chronological references and quotes (italicized) with emphasis (in bold) regarding the extent to which Congress has been pressing and funding the ATF to move forward with eForms:

FY ending Sept. 30, 2015

  • From House Report 113-448 (May 15, 2014):

The Committee is concerned about growing backlogs in processing applications required under the National Firearms Act (NFA), as well as licensing approvals for manufacturers. According to ATF, NFA applications increased more than 380 percent between 2005 and 2013. In an effort to reduce processing time and backlogs, ATF has implemented “eForms,” an electronic filing process, which has reduced submission and processing times, as well as data entry processing backlogs. The Committee encourages ATF to seek further service improvements, and directs ATF to report no later than 60 days after enactment of this Act on the status of its processing initiatives, to include data on processing volumes, delays, and backlogs, as well as actual and estimated staffing and operating costs in fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Should additional funding be required to reduce processing time, the Committee expects ATF to submit a reprogramming request.

  • H.R. 4660 (June 2, 2014) ($1.2 billion to ATF)

FY ending Sept. 30, 2018

  • H.R. 3267 (July 17, 2017) ($1.293776 Billion to ATF)

  • From House Report 115-231 (July 17, 2017, to accompany HR 3267):

An increase of not less than $10,000,000 above the request is for the activities of the National Firearms Act (NFA) Branch, Federal Firearms Licensing Center, Federal Explosives Licensing Center, Import Branch, and to develop and implement ATF’s next generation eForms system.

  • H.R. 1625 (Mar. 23, 2018) (“Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018”) ($1.293776 billion to ATF)

  • Quote from Representative Frelinghuysen (NJ) "Explanatory Statement . . . ." Congressional Record 164:50 (Mar. 22, 2018) p. H2091:

This Act includes $1,293,776,000 . . . to fully fund the requested program increases, as well as for an increase of not less than $10,000,000 for activities, as specified in the House report, for the National Firearms Act Division, Federal Firearms and Explosives Licensing Centers, the Import Branch, and the eForms system.

FY ending Sept. 30, 2019

  • H.R. 5952 (May 24, 2018) ($1.316678 billion to ATF)

  • From House Report 115-704 (May 24, 2018, to accompany H.R. 5952, p. 42):

Investigative Support Services.—The Committee recommendation includes a $13,200,000 increase, as requested, for the activities of the NFA Division to continue improvements in processing NFA applications. The committee notes that an increase of not less than $10,000,000 was provided in the fiscal year 2018 Appropriations Act for these activities, and expects that resources provided for fiscal year 2019 will complement and accelerate activities begun in 2018 to expedite the handling of an unprecedented volume of applications, while employing technology to enhance processing capabilities. Funding provided should support progress in developing and implementing ATF’s next generation eForms system.

FY ending September 30, 2021

  • H.R. 7667 (July 16, 2020) ($1.55 billion to ATF)

  • From House Report No. 116-455 (July 16, 2020, to accompany HR 7667):

No specific allocation of funds for NFA or eForms but Committee Report includes section captioned “EForms Filing System,” stating, “[i]n order to further the goals of shortening processing times, reducing submission errors, and increasing efficiency, the Committee directs ATF to report on the feasibility and appropriateness of allowing third-party processors to effectively interact with ATF’s eForms electronic filing system. Such report shall include an analysis of the feasibility of establishing methods by which: (1) third-party processors may access the system’s application programming interface (API); (2) both transferors and transferees can certify forms through the provided interface; and (3) forms submitted through the interface are treated as equal to, and processed in sequence with and in comparable time to, forms not submitted through the interface. The Committee encourages ATF to engage with stakeholders in the course of examining the feasibility of establishing such system modifications.

FY ending September 30, 2022

  • From House Report No. 117-97 (July 19, 2021, to accompany HR 4505):

The recommendation assumes that within the resources provided, ATF will prioritize funding for the National Firearms Act Division to improve firearms licensing processing timelines. The Committee is concerned about the large number of pending applications awaiting processing by ATF. As of May 2021, more than 90 percent of these applications are ATF Form 4, Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of Firearm, which remains in paper form, and current processing times take several months. In 2013, ATF established eForms, an electronic filing process, to reduce submission and processing times as well as data entry processing backlogs. The Committee is aware ATF is currently developing ATF Form 4 into eForms and encourages ATF to prioritize funding for this continued development within the funds provided. Completing the modernization of the processing system and automating ATF Form 4 applications is critical and will free up additional resources for improved customer service and prevent backlogs from continuing to mount.

. . .

The Committee understands that it may be beneficial to ensure third-party processors can access ATF’s eForm electronic filing system as third-party assistance to transferees may serve to reduce submission errors and increase efficiency. The Committee looks forward to receiving the study directed in House Report 116–455 regarding the feasibility of allowing third-party processors access to ATF’s eForm electronic filing system to further the goals of shortening processing times, reducing submission errors, and increasing efficiency. The Committee directs ATF to utilize its findings in order to work to enable meaningful third-party access, while safeguarding individual privacy and tax-sensitive information, at the time ATF commences electronic submission of Form 4 filings or as soon as practicable thereafter.

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