I tell all of my clients to keep a copy of both their approved tax stamps and their NFA trust on them at all times they are in possession of their NFA items.
But if you follow that advice to its logical conclusion it assumes that you may have to show it to someone at some point.
So … who exactly does have the right to ask to see your approved tax stamp?
Let’s start with the obvious. What about ATF agents?
Well … the Form 1 and Form 4 both give us a big clue. On the back of both forms it says “This approved application is the registrant’s proof of registration and it shall be made available to any ATF officer upon request.”
The authority for this assertion is 26 U.S.C. § 5841(e) which states that you are required to “retain proof of registration which shall be made available to the [ATF acting in their official capacity] upon request.”
Therefore, any ATF agent has the authority to ask to see your approved tax stamp.
But what about local and state law enforcement officers?
Well … let me start by noting that my practice is limited to Virginia and this advice is intentionally limited to Virginia law. Having said that, under Virginia law, most NFA items are banned but have an exception for items possession in conformity with federal law.
For example, short-barreled rifles and short-barreled shotguns are both generally banned under § 18.2-300.
§ 18.2-300. Possession or use of “sawed-off” shotgun or rifle.
A. Possession or use of a “sawed-off” shotgun or “sawed-off” rifle in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of a crime of violence is a Class 2 felony.
B. Possession or use of a “sawed-off” shotgun or “sawed-off” rifle for any other purpose, except as permitted by this article and official use by those persons permitted possession by § 18.2-303, is a Class 4 felony.
And the exception for these items possessed in conformity with federal law is contained in § 18.2-303.1.
§ 18.2-303.1. What article does not prohibit.
Nothing contained in this article shall prohibit or interfere with the possession of a “sawed-off” shotgun or “sawed-off” rifle for scientific purposes, the possession of a “sawed-off” shotgun or “sawed-off” rifle possessed in compliance with federal law or the possession of a “sawed-off” shotgun or “sawed-off” rifle not usable as a firing weapon and possessed as a curiosity, ornament, or keepsake.
Therefore, a local or state law enforcement officer would have the right to ask to see the approved tax stamp and failure to provide it would be evidence of a violation of state law.
Is there anyone else? What about range safety officers at a range?
There are certainly numerous anecdotes on the internet about RSOs asking to see the tax stamp for an NFA item that is being fired at a commercial range.
In this case however, the answer is ‘No’. They do not have a legal right to see your tax stamp. But … as a private property actor, what they do have is the right to ask you to leave if they ask and you refuse.