The two most common NFA procedures for personal owners (i.e., end users) are making an NFA firearm and transferring an existing NFA firearm.  Under some limited circumstances, an NFA firearm can transfer tax-free.

Making an NFA firearm

Unless you hold a Federal Firearms License (FFL) and have paid the annual Special (Occupational) Tax (SOT) to be a manufacturer of NFA firearms, making an NFA firearm requires two things:

  • Payment of a $200 tax, and
  • Submission and approval of ATF Form 1

If you are applying as an individual (that is, in your own name, rather than for a trust, corporation, or LLC), you'll need to submit fingerprint cards, a passport photo, and have your Form 1 signed by your Chief Law Enforcement Officer (usually your police chief or sheriff, but many other officials qualify).  If you're applying as a trust, corporation, or LLC, the fingerprints, photo, and signature are not required, and you can apply online if you choose using ATF eForms, which generally results in much faster approval.

The basic process is the same whether you are converting an existing, non-NFA firearm into an NFA configuration (for example, making an short-barreled rifle from an existing AR-15 receiver or rifle), or making an NFA item from scratch yourself (for example, making a short-barreled rifle from an 80% AR-15 receiver you completed yourself, or building a silencer from scratch).

When you make an NFA firearm, you must mark it with your name (personal, trust, corporation, or LLC--whatever name is on the Form 1) and the city and state where you make it.  It must also be marked with its caliber.  In the case of a short-barreled rifle, the barrel is usually marked with the caliber.  If not, you can mark the barrel or the receiver.  Many receivers come from the factory marked "multi" for the caliber--this is not acceptable for an NFA firearm.

Tax-paid transfer of an NFA firearm

If you're buying an NFA item, whether from a dealer in your state or an individual in your state, again, there are two basic requirements:

  • Payment of a $200 tax, unless you're buying an "any other weapon", in which case the tax is $5, and
  • Submission and approval of ATF Form 4

Legally, the tax is considered to be paid by the transferor (seller), and that's who is considered to make the application.  When the Form 4 is approved, it is returned to the transferor.  If the transferor is a private individual, they can then give you the item.  If the transferor is a dealer, the transfer proceeds like any other firearm transfer--you will fill out ATF Form 4473 and then take the item home with you.

As with applications to make an NFA firearm with Form 1, applications to transfer to an individual require fingerprints, a passport photo, and CLEO signature.  Applying using a legal entity like a corporation, trust, or LLC bypasses those requirements.  However, Form 4 is not currently available on the ATF eForms system.

Tax-free transfer of an NFA firearm

When the owner of an NFA firearm dies, the firearm can be transferred to the owner's heirs or beneficiaries (whether the owner had a will, a trust, or neither) without payment of tax using ATF Form 5.