While you know that FFLs are necessary to obtain when looking to legally sell, import, and manufacture merchandise, it helps to know the technicalities behind them. Once the ATF approves your license, you can expect a corresponding number unique to the applicant’s documentation.
But what exactly are FFL numbers, what do they mean, and why should you look them up? Read on to learn more about these codes.
What Is an FFL Number?
FFL numbers are singular codes that correspond with FFLs, issued by the ATF. Typically given at the time of approval, these codes tend to carry information on the license’s type, expiration date, and other identifying data to the holder.
How Are FFL Numbers Unique?
As previously mentioned, FFL numbers are exclusive to the license; these codes typically appear with 15 characters. The combinations of 14 numbers and one letter are similar to coded messages.
The number divides into six sections that indicate the location of licensure, approved activities you can engage in by an FFL, and more. It’s worth noting that owning multiple dealing locations will require a code exclusive to each store.
What Are the Different Sections of an FFL Number?
To learn about each section of an FFL number, it helps to have a combination as a frame of reference. Throughout this article, you’ll notice 1-23-444-55-6K-77777 as the guide to help illustrate each section in detail.
The ATF separates the United States into different regions; this allows the agency to oversee administrative tasks and issue licenses from other locations rather than one. Referring to our example 1-23-444-55-6K-77777, you’ll want to look at the first section with the single-digit value.
The first section will represent the region of licensure. When assigning numbers to each area, the ATF skipped over numbers 2 and 7, so it’s not uncommon to notice a gap between numbers.
1 – Southeast
This region includes the states of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Virginia. Note that territories like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are also part of the Southeast region.
3 – Midwest
You’ll notice states such as Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin as part of this region.
4 – Central
The Central region is home to Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.
5 – Southwest
The Southwest region typically covers Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, Texas, and Wyoming.
6 – North Atlantic
This region includes but is not limited to Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
8 – Mid-Atlantic
The Mid-Atlantic region pertains to Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
9 – Western
Like the Southeast region, the Western part includes but isn’t limited to Alaska, American Samoa, California, Hawaii, Guam, and Utah.
The second section, otherwise known in our example as “23,” will represent the corresponding IRS district or Campus of Record assigned to the FFL. While you may wonder what role the IRS plays in your FFL, there’s some historical background behind this detail.
The ATF used to be a part of the Treasury Department, so the double-digit number was the Employer’s Identification Number, referencing the IRS district of the FFL. While a new system currently takes its place, the numerical values still live on in the FFL.
The third section of an FFL number (444) indicates the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) code assigned to the license.
It’s worth noting that the values in this section change often, so you won’t have to worry about looking them up to verify an FFL’s validity. Most holders ignore this section as the values often see duplication in specific areas.
The fourth section of the model FFL number will contain a two-digit number representing the license type. While the “55” in our example isn’t a valid input, there are nine different FFL types to consider.
Each type represents trades that can deal, import, or manufacture equipment. It helps to know the various kinds of FFLs a business can obtain so they’re aware of permitted activities they can partake in.
- Type 01 (01) – Dealer in equipment other than destructive items.
- Type 02 (02) – Pawnbroker; null of destructive devices.
- Type 03 (03) – Collector of relics and curios.
- Type 06 (06) – Manufacturer of ammo; cannot manufacture destructive equipment.
- Type 07 (07) – Manufacturer of equipment
- Type 08 (08) – Importer
- Type 09 (09) – Dealer in destructive merchandise
- Type 10 (10) – Manufacturer of destructive equipment
- Type 11 (11) – Importer of destructive merchandise
The fifth section of the example FFL number (6K) is another double-digit value that indicates when the license expires. You’ll notice this section typically contains a number and a letter, with the first character being the last digit of the expiration year. Given that “6” is our first character, this would mean that the FFL would expire in 2026.
The next character (K) indicates the months of the year. The assigned letters cover A through M, skipping over “I.” In this case, both characters would mean the FFL expires in October 2026.
- A – January
- B – February
- C – March
- D – April
- E – May
- F – June
- G – July
- H – August
- J – September
- K – October
- L – November
- M – December
Unique ATF Code
Finally, the sixth section of the number is a unique five-digit combination that works as the true identifying code. While most of the FFL number serves administrative purposes, the first and last sections are what you would input into a search when verifying the license.
Why Should You Verify FFL Numbers?
Verifying FFL numbers is essential for a business because it is a preventative measure that mitigates potential forgery. The ATF has an official verification tool companies may use to check FFL numbers.
It would help to keep physical copies of FFL licenses for future records. Your FFL number may change as it reaches expiration. Verification is a free process, unlike obtaining an FFL number.
Compliance Check With the ATF
The timetable for compliance checks or audits with the ATF can range from one to three years. Typically, most businesses may undergo an audit every three years. This is another reason it helps to keep physical copies of all licenses in case an issue arises during the audit process.
While having an FFL is one of the most vital tasks to complete before opening your business, it helps to know about FFL numbers, what they mean, and why you should look them up.
You’ll also want to look into opening an FFL merchant account with a credit card processing company you can trust, and that’s where we at Electronic Transfer can help. With no hidden expenses or application fees, working with us is a smooth operating process!