Owning Gold and Precious Metals Doesn’t Have to be Taxing

Holding steady near $1,500 an ounce, the price of gold has climbed more than 17% thus far in 2019 (as of 9/26/19). We’re of the opinion that we are at the beginning stages of a new bull market for gold. Along with other precious metals strategists, we believe the yellow metal could surpass its all-time high of $1,900 within the next couple of years as investors confront the realities of lower for longer global interest rates, swelling worldwide debt, trade tensions and mounting geopolitical uncertainty.

For many U.S. investors the returns provided by owning physical gold — and the other precious metals including silver, platinum and palladium — come with a sobering surprise when the assets are sold and it’s time to pay taxes. The reason: The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) categorizes gold and other precious metals as “collectibles” which are taxed at a 28% long-term capital gains rate. Gains on most other assets held for more than a year are subject to the 15% or 20% long-term capital gains rates. 

Collectibles are Taxed at 28%

This is the case not just for gold coins and bars but also for most ETFs (exchange-traded funds) which are taxed at 28%. Many investors, including financial advisors, run into trouble owning these investments. They assume, incorrectly, that because the gold ETF trades like a stock that they will also be taxed like a stock, which are subject to the long-term capital gains rate of 15% or 20%.

Investors often perceive the high costs of owning gold as the dealer markups and storage fees for physical gold, or management fees and trading costs for gold funds. In reality, taxes may represent a significant cost in owning gold and other precious metals.

Fortunately, there is a relatively easy way to minimize the tax implications of owning gold and other precious metals.

PFICs are Taxed at 15% or 20% — A Tax-Friendly Way to Own Gold

For U.S. individual investors, Sprott Physical Bullion Trusts may offer more favorable tax treatment than comparable ETFs. Because the trusts are domiciled in Canada and categorized as Passive Foreign Investment Companies (PFIC), U.S. non-corporate investors are eligible for standard long-term capital gains rates on the sale or redemption of their units. Again, these rates are 15% or 20%, depending on income, for units held for more than a year at the time of the sale.

To be eligible, investors — or their financial advisors — need to make a Qualifying Electing Fund (QEF) election for each trust by completing IRS Form 8621 and filing it with their U.S. income tax return.

While no investor relishes filling out additional tax forms, the tax savings of owning gold through one of the Sprott Physical Bullion Trusts and making the annual election can be well worth it.

Consider the hypothetical example of an investor who invests $50,000 in gold and realizes an 8% annual return (see #2). After five years, that investment is worth $73,466, and the investor will be required to pay taxes on the appreciated amount of $23,466. If the investment, say a gold bullion ETF, is taxed at the 28% collectibles tax rate, the investor will owe $8,216. By contrast, the investor would owe $5,869 in taxes for gold owned in a PFIC and taxed at the 20% long-term capital gains rate. In this example, owning a PFIC saves the investor nearly 40% in taxes.

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