Tax-Advantaged Gold IRAs: What’s Not to Like?
A Gold IRA can is well known for providing an excellent extra layer of diversification in any investment portfolio, helping to hedge a retirement plan from many risks of market crashes or financial crisis.
But not only does holding gold in an IRA account lend the IRA gold’s wealth protecting capabilities, buying gold inside an IRA is one of our most tax-efficient ways to invest in gold.
This page looks to provide you with clear information looking at the need for a Gold IRA, the rules behind opening and investing in one and how to best take full advantage of adding gold to an IRA.
Investing in Gold and Silver for Retirement
It’s essential that we plan for our retirement. We might say this and we know this to be true – but are we doing even close to enough?
Recent research by the Federal Reserve has shown 13% of Americans aged 60+ have absolutely no retirement savings. The figure increases to 17% in the 45-59 age bracket and 26% for those aged 30-44.
As for Americans under 30, a whopping 42% have made zero plans for retirement.
And of those of us who DO have some form of retirement savings, half of the over 60s with retirement plans consider themselves underfunded – a frightening thought in a world that’s rapidly getting more expensive whilst state services are cut.
It’s no wonder that the IRS has created a number of incentives to save – and not only incentives to save, but incentives to save in real money: the safe-haven and proven wealth insurance that is gold.
Thanks to changes in the IRS rules, investing in silver and gold for retirement has now become highly tax advantaged allowing investors buying gold for IRA purposes to treat the investment amount as a tax deduction on our income tax return, reducing our tax payable and giving us those dollars back to grow our IRA in gold and silver.
Provided your income is within IRA contribution limits and you buy a specified standard of bullion products it’s very easy to take advantage of this golden tax bonus.
Unfortunately not all American retirement accounts are able to invest in physical bullion. As an example 401K plans will need transferring or rolled over into a Self Directed IRA – and some IRA plans are set up in such a way they can only deal with paper assets such as stocks, shares and bonds.
If this is the case, it’s simply a matter of working with a Gold IRA Specialist and filling a few forms to get started – and turning those tax deductions into a shining asset that can even help protect the rest of your retirement account.
We’ll cover the basic gold IRA rules, gold IRA rollovers and transfers in a moment.
How will gold help protect your IRA?
Gold isn’t just a long-term solid performer averaging a 9% yearly increase over the past 45 years – but it’s a proven wealth preservation tool, used to protect generational wealth and the finances of entire nations. Once the secret of a select few at the top of the money pyramid, gold investing has become an option open to any of us.
Gold’s protective power in IRA accounts was most notable in our recent banking crisis when a global crash and deep recession tore the values of millions of retirement plans down by 50%.
But because gold tends to run in the opposite direction to stocks – those with the foresight to add a percentage of gold inside IRA plans enjoyed the yellow metal’s stratospheric rise while everything else including the normally solid real estate fell through the floor.
The difference between those with and without gold was felt strongest by those nearing retirement. For soon to be retirees invested primarily in paper stocks and bonds they saw their retirement plans and with it their lifestyle plans cut in half.
IRA accounts holding gold were comparatively unscathed and may even have seen an overall profit thanks to gold’s actions – gold simply doing what it does best in times of crisis.
Back to present day is our financial system and our global economy in better shape? Are we safer in our beds and on the streets with terrorism, war and global trade conflicts being things of the past?
As we cover here wealth analysts and market professionals are writing increasingly worrying reports suggesting we are on the brink of something far worse than the crash of 07/08.
Whether this is true or not, we are definitely in uncharted territory with US national and individual debt at an all time high, coupled with growing geopolitical unrest not only in the Middle East, but Europe and Asia too.
It could take just one small event to trigger a sweeping crash – and it’s our duty both to ourselves and our families to make sure we’re not taken down with it.
And tax-advantaged gold and silver could play a key role in that insurance.
Investing in Gold with an IRA
As with any governmental program where there’s a financial advantage to be had – this advantage only comes by following tightly specified rules.
And as in any state-sponsored retirement program, there are contribution limits, maximum ages, withdrawal/distribution limits with fines or double taxation if you get it wrong.
When it comes to investing in gold and silver for your retirement that rulebook just got bigger.
But this shouldn’t be a worry provided you stick to the rules – and if you work with a gold IRA specialist that’s a certainty – you have the same benefits and investing methods as with buying gold in any portfolio, except now you’re investing in a highly tax-advantaged way.
Gold IRA Basics
All IRAs have contribution limits. For 2020 (as with 2019), your total annual contributions to all of your traditional and Roth IRAs cannot be more than:
- $6,000 ($7,000 if you’re age 50 or older), or
- your taxable compensation for the year, if your compensation was less than this dollar limit.
This limit is up $500 from 2018, where total contributions were $5,500 or $6,500 for those aged 50 or older.
Note: The IRA contribution limits do not apply to rollover contributions or qualified reservist repayments.
Required Minimum Distributions:
Unlike buying and holding precious metals outside of a retirement account, you are not allowed to keep retirement assets in your IRA indefinitely. Investors generally need to begin taking distributions from their IRA, SIMPLE IRA, SEP IRA, or other retirement plan account when they have reached age 72.
Your “required minimum distribution” is the minimum amount you must withdraw from your account each year.
- You can withdraw more than the minimum required amount
- Your withdrawals will be included in your taxable income except for any part that was taxed before (your basis) or that can be received tax-free (such as qualified distributions from designated Roth accounts)
For IRAs this starts April 1 the year after the calendar year in which you reach age 72.
If you have any questions or need more detail on these distributions or contributions, look at the IRS website or speak to a Gold IRA specialist.
The Gold IRA Process
It may be you already have a Self Directed IRA, in which case you are most probably set up and good to go – you simply need to find a professional bullion dealer used to working with IRA accounts and you’re on track to invest in tax-deductible gold.
For those of us in 401(k) plans, with IRA accounts or IRA custodians who can’t or won’t work with physical precious metals and alternative assets it’s just slightly more legwork – and no extra work if you’re working with a Gold IRA specialist.
If our retirement account can’t hold gold then we need to carry out a Gold IRA Rollover or a Gold IRA Transfer.
Gold IRA Rollover
What is a Gold IRA Rollover? A Gold IRA Rollover is a process where funds are rolled over from one retirement account into a new self-directed IRA or Gold IRA.
Although these funds will typically be distributed to you for reinvestment, this process if done correctly doesn’t trigger any taxable events.
As an example you may want to move funds from an old employer-sponsored retirement plan into a new self directed IRA. An IRA rollover will preserve the tax-deferred status of the assets in your old retirement account, without paying current taxes or any early withdrawal penalty at the time of transfer.
Step #1: Select a Custodian / Trustee to Accept Your Rollover.
There are many custodians and trustees out there, only some of whom regularly work with physical gold investments. By working with a professional Gold IRA specialist, they will have direct and regular contact with the best of any Gold IRA custodians.
The regular business the gold dealer who specializes in Gold IRAs sends the custodian will also result in a smoother and quicker process – and in some cases may also come with financial benefits in terms of reduced fees.
To get started you fill in a simple form to create a suitable new self-directed IRA account – your Gold IRA. These days you’re just as likely to fill in digital forms for faster processing as older paper forms sent by post – meaning your new Gold IRA can be active in 2-5 days, sometimes sooner.
One company we have looked into is American Hartford gold. Read that full review to learn more about them.
Step #2: The Rollover of Funds
Now comes the time where you make a distribution from your existing retirement plan, into your new plan. This is the rollover.
The administrator of your old plan could issue your distribution in the form of a check made payable to your new account, or to you – or by direct deposit. No matter which route your payment takes, the important aspect is that there are no taxes withheld from your rollover and provided the rollover reinvestment happens within the correct time frame of 60 days or less there is no taxable event.
If you go beyond 60 days however, it counts as a taxable distribution and this is why it pays to work with efficient specialists.
Step #3: Buying Precious Metals
If you’re working with a gold IRA specialist, you may have already discussed the metals you’re looking to buy. Specialist IRA gold dealers help advise you on the best investment metals most suited to your needs.
For example some metals portfolios can be built on their potential for capital appreciation as well as wealth protection – others may simply look at Gold’s hedging action to safeguard riskier assets.
With your investment gold and silver chosen, your dealer will lock the prices at a market rate you’re happy with – at which point your trustee wires the funds to the dealer as payment for the precious metals.
Your bullion IRA then sees insured delivery directly into your chosen depository vault – and that’s the rollover complete.
You now have tax-advantaged gold protecting your retirement funds should the worst happen – and growing at an average of 9% per year if it doesn’t.
When Use a Gold IRA Rollover?
Usually*, a distribution (withdrawal of funds) from a retirement account is a taxable event. This means that the amount you withdraw is added to your income for the current year, with the IRS taxing it at your standard rate.
By rolling over your distribution from one plan to another or carrying out a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer, you generally* don’t pay any tax on it until you finally withdraw it from the new plan at retirement. There are some exceptions and some rollovers may be subject to a witholding tax*.
An IRA rollover allows for more of your money to continue growing through careful investments thanks to those investments being tax-deferred.
*(Roth distributions are taxed differently with tax being deducted pre-investment rather than at a future event – check with your IRA Advisor for up to date legislation)
What IRAs can be rolled over?
|Roth IRA||Trad. IRA||Simple IRA||SEP-IRA|
|Roth IRA||YES 1||NO||NO||NO|
|Trad. IRA||YES 2||YES 1||NO||YES 1|
|Simple IRA||YES 2
(after 2 yrs)
(after 2 yrs)
|YES 1||YES 1
(after 2 yrs)
|SEP-IRA||YES 2||YES 1||NO||YES 1|
|*1: Only one rollover in 12 months *2: Must include in income|
Note that from January 1, 2015, the IRS changed rollover rules to only allow a single rollover from one IRA to another IRA in any 12-month period, regardless of the number of IRAs you own. There are exemptions however: The one-per year limit does not apply to rollovers from traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs (conversions), trustee-to-trustee transfers to another IRA, IRA-to-plan rollovers, plan-to-IRA rollovers and plan-to-plan rollovers.
Gold IRA Transfer
Much like an IRA rollover, a gold IRA transfer is another tax efficient way to add precious metals to your retirement portfolio.
A transfer involves the direct transfer of retirement funds from one trustee to another. The funds do not enter your bank account as in a rollover. While a direct transfer of funds from one account to another sounds simple in theory – in practice there are some providers who don’t always work well with others and need to pre-approve the transfer.
Trustee-to-trustee transfers are not subject to any tax withholding and are exempt from the above one-per-year and 60 day rollover rules.
When Would You Carry Out a Gold IRA Transfer?
You carry out a gold IRA transfer if your existing retirement plan is unable to contain physical precious metals. Transfers are most commonly carried out on company pensions because 401k plans can only hold traditional paper assets. They may also be subject to a withholding tax when rolling over to an IRA – whereas a transfer is not.
Also despite it being several years since the IRS relaxed it’s rules on holding investment-grade bullion within IRAs, there are still a number of trustees who can’t or won’t accept physical gold.
A gold IRA transfer consists of three simple stages:
Step #1: Select a Custodian / Trustee to Accept the Transfer.
If you don’t already have a suitable IRA, you will need to set one up. To get off to the best start and ensure your chosen trustee works well with precious metals we advise you to work with a Gold IRA specialist. They have close relationships with the best trustees in the precious metals market, any forms required – and can help you fill them in if needed.
Check out the list of companies at Cayman Financial Review. They have done an amazing job of listing the top gold IRA companies.
An additional bonus is IRA set-up fees are often reduced thanks to the volume of business the gold IRA specialist sends the trustee’s way.
Paperwork is either all-digital or in some cases traditional printed forms, but are rarely complex and the whole account opening process can take as little as a couple of days.
Step #2: The Trustee-to-Trustee Transfer
Your new gold IRA trustee and your old trustee will now arrange to carry out a trustee-to-trustee transfer.
This means the financial institution holding your current plan to makes the payment transfer directly into your new retirement plan, the funds moving from one account to the other without entering your personal accounts and triggering a distribution or taxable event.
Importantly there are no taxes withheld in any form of transfer – a boon for moving from a 401k to an IRA. They are also exempt from the one rollover per year rule.
Transfer Step #3: Buying Precious Metals
As with the Gold IRA Rollover above, now comes the time to add precious metals to your new IRA.
Depending on your needs, be it for growth, for security or a combination of the two, your Gold IRA specialist will be able to advise you on building out your metals portfolio. Provided your metals comply with IRS rules as being compatible with an IRA account (and if you’re working with a specialist, they will be) you can buy a selection of gold bars and coins, silver, investment grade platinum and even palladium.
Secure insured delivery from your bullion broker direct to your trustees vault in an IRA depository and you’re good – you’ve successfully completed a gold IRA transfer and are able to take advantage of both gold’s power to protect and grow, but you’ve done so in the most tax-efficient way possible.
Gold Ira Approved Metals
You can’t go ahead and add any old gold bullion products to an IRA and definitely not collectable items such as gold jewelry or special collector coins (numismatics). Investment grade metals when being held in an IRA need to follow a set of strict rules.
The choice of bullion products accepted as investments inside of a self-directed IRA are limited, but for good reason. Your long-term protection.
Precious metal IRAs may only contain bullion bars and coins if they come from a COMEX/NYMEX accredited mint, metals refinery or assayer – or from a national government mint. They must also meet certain purity standards.
Gold should be a minimum of .995 fineness – which means a gold purity of 99.5% or greater (with American Gold Eagles being a key exception)
Bullion bars and especially coins suitable for precious metal IRAs should be valued on their precious metal content only. Slabbed / graded and numismatic or collectible coins are not permitted (although once again there’s an exception when it comes to American proof gold and proof silver Eagles).
Finally you are not allowed to add your own bullion bars and coins if previously held outside of an IRA into your IRA. Only metals delivered direct from a bullion dealer to your trustee vault are permitted. This is to ensure both your and the vault/trustee’s security.
IRA Approved Bullion Coins & Rounds
Gold – official list
- American Gold Eagle coins
- U.S. Buffalo Bullion gold coins
- Canadian Maple Leaf gold coins
- Austrian Philharmonic gold coins
- Australian Kangaroo/Nugget gold coins
Other acceptable gold coins/rounds include:
- Chinese Gold Panda coins
- Gold Incuse Indian rounds
- Gold Engelhard Prospector rounds
- Perth Mint Lunar Series gold coins
Silver – official list
- American Silver Eagle coins
- Austrian Vienna Philharmonic coins
- Australian Kookaburra coins
- Canadian Maple Leaf coins
Other acceptable silver coins/rounds include:
- UK Silver Britannia coins (2013+)
- Sunshine Mint silver rounds
- Candian Silver Arctic Fox coins
- Australian Silver Kookaburra coins
Platinum – official list
- American Platinum Eagle coins
- Platinum Canadian Maple Leaf coins
- Platinum Australian Koala coins
Other acceptable platinum coins/rounds include:
- Platinum Britannia coins
- Platinum Australian Platypus coins
Palladium – official list
- Canadian Maple Leaf Palladium coins
IRA Approved Bullion Bars
IRA approved bullion bars must meet minimum fineness requirements and be manufactured by a NYMEX or COMEX-approved refiner/assayer and should be ISO9001 Certified.
Examples of qualifying gold bars:
- Perth Mint .9999 fine bars
- Credit Suisse .9999 fine bars
- PAMP Suisse .9999 fine bars
- Royal Canadian Mint .9999 fine bars
- Ohio Precious Metals .9999 fine bars
Examples of qualifying silver bars:
- Royal Canadian Mint .9999 fine bars
- Sunshine Mint .999+ fine bars
- Ohio Precious Metals .999+ fine bars
- Engelhard Hand Poured .999+ fine bars
- Golden State Mint ISO9001 .999+ fine bars
Examples of qualifying platinum bars:
- Credit Suisse .9995 fine bars
- Scotiabank .9995+ fine bars
- Johnson Matthey .9995 fine bars
Examples of qualifying platinum bars:
- Pamp Suisse .9995+ fine bars
- Credit Suisse .9995+ fine bars
- Baird & Co. .9995+ fine bars
If in doubt ask your bullion dealer to confirm the metals they are selling are suitable – or deal directly with a gold IRA specialist.
Adding Gold to an IRA
Adding gold to an IRA follows a near identical route to buying any investment bullion, especially if you usually store your gold in a vault – with three exceptions:
- The purchasing monies must come from your IRA account.
- You are slightly limited to only buying IRS approved metals.
- You need to use an approved trustee/depository vault.
So rather than paying your gold dealer in cash, check, credit card or bank wire you simply set up a transfer from the IRA account to the broker.
In every other respect it’s you who decides on which bullion bar or coin sizes to buy, and the brands or mints who produce them. Because Gold IRAs have become such a popular route to investing in gold, most bullion dealer’s biggest sellers are all suitable for precious metals retirement accounts.
The one downside – especially for “goldbugs” is you don’t get to physically handle the metals because they are sent directly to your depository vault – however the tax savings and the high security of the vault more than makes up for this.
Can I Add Gold Coins in an IRA?
Yes bullion coins can be held in an IRA, as long as they meet minimum fineness requirements (.995+) they are manufactured by a NYMEX or COMEX-approved refiner/assayer or a national government mint and they are ISO9001 Certified.
As mentioned above, only bullion coins can be held – that is coins who’s value is based on the metal content and not on their collectability or rarity.
Investing in regular bullion coins still gives you a massive choice in mints, designs and coin sizes so even if you like to dabble in collecting sticking to bullion coins alone can still keep your coin investments interesting – as long as you remember there’s a distinction between bullion and true collectables.
This should be a very clear distinction, but because bullion is a very low margin game there are unscrupulous dealers who may try to increase their profits by selling some “collectables” as suitable for an IRA – and so the lines get blurred.
The Big Fat Collectables Con
No matter what these dealers say, the only collectable coins allowed in an IRA are Proof American Gold Eagles and Proof American Silver Eagles from the United States Mint.
If other collectable coins are marketed as being IRA safe then you can be sure of one thing: they are not really collectable – instead they’re simply regular bullion coins being sold at a higher premium to a naïve investor. They may be described as limited strike, or limited edition, but they’re not especially rare and they’re rarely worth anything more than their gold content.
You can test this out by taking down the details of one of these so-called collectables and asking another bullion dealer what they’d give you for it. 99 times out of 100 it will be around the spot price of gold.
Adding to the problem – there’s a huge amount of misinformation online and it’s not unknown for unscrupulous dealers to take advantage, knowingly selling high mark-up coins as suitable for an IRA when they’re absolutely not.
Unless your depository brings this to your attention, or the IRS catches it on your tax return, you may only find this out when you come to take a distribution – and making the mistake of buying the wrong gold coins for your IRA will end up resulting in an unexpected tax bill.
As an example if $25,000 of your IRA funds are used to invest in coins which the IRS classifies as collectibles, the IRS will view this transaction as a $25,000 distribution. This means that $25,000 should be reported as being part of your gross income, at the time you make the purchase and be liable to income tax at your standard tax rate. If you’re younger than 59.5 you’re not only due tax on $25,000 but there’s an additional 10% penalty tax for early distribution.
Fast forward to the eventual selling of these collectible coins where distribution of the proceeds becomes a further prohibited transaction forming part of gross income for the year of the distribution. You take a further tax hit, with no credit being given for previous penalty tax. Effectively double taxation.
The dealer who sold you the coins, if questioned, will typically point to some small-print on their contract and deny any wrongdoing – all the while keeping the increased premiums they charged you.
So when it comes to adding coins in an IRA, don’t take any risks – stick solely to low premium bullion on the approved list. If you must buy collectables or rarities, enjoy them at home – just not in your IRA.
The Process: Buying Physical Gold for an IRA
As we explained earlier, adding gold to an IRA follows an almost identical route to buying any investment bullion, especially if you’re accustomed to storing your gold in a vault – with three exceptions:
- The purchasing monies must come from your IRA account.
- You are slightly limited to only buying IRS approved metals.
- You need to use an approved trustee/depository vault.
To make each purchase your IRA trustee needs to transfer a dollar amount over to your chosen bullion broker, or the gold investment company who originally helped you set up the gold retirement account. This process is usually carried out by wire and can take 1-2 days depending on the bank.
Whether you’ve agreed on a particular bullion selection before the bank transfer or after, as soon as the funds are in place your gold broker will buy your choice of precious metals either from stock, their wholesale account or direct from the mint/refinery, keeping you updated with what is happening, especially if you’ve ordered non-stock items.
Once ready the metals are then securely packaged and sent by insured transport directly to the depository vault. If some items are stock and some non-stock, deliveries may be split to ensure metals are in the possession of your IRA trustee sooner rather than later.
Selling (or liquidating) your gold IRA investments – either to buy another asset within your IRA, or to take a distribution after retirement – follows a similar albeit reversed process.
You make a request to sell, the gold is typically shipped to the original seller or any other broker you’ve made an agreement to purchase with. Original sellers tend to offer the best price as they’re buying back gold they know and which has followed a strict chain of custody from sale to buyback.
The broker having received and checked the bullion then issues a wire back to the trustee who can then make further asset purchases on your behalf, or make a cash distribution, cutting a check in your name and sending it to your home.
Adding gold bullion in an IRA is really no more complicated than investing in gold for any portfolio – it just comes with an added tax advantage.
Gold Bullion IRA Investing Tips
A gold bullion IRA isn’t about collectables. It’s entirely about the value of the gold in your bars or coins. This means you shouldn’t worry about buying specific mintage coins or bars from one refinery over the next.
Provided the refinery or mint is NYMEX or COMEX approved or a government mint and meets purity requirements then you should only be concerned with buying as much gold as you can for your dollar.
This can include secondary market bullion (pre-owned) where we find some of the lowest premiums in the market and special offers dealers will make from time to time. You’re never going to handle or own this gold – it must be sold before distribution takes place – so it should genuinely not matter what you buy as long as it’s IRS compliant.
But even if you don’t find bargains – and many government minted coins go for a slightly higher premium than generic gold anyway – it doesn’t matter a huge amount if your investment is being held on the longer term.
With gold averaging 9% annual increases over the past 45 years – shaving 1% or 2% from a premium has only the most slight effect on your overall investment.
Something we believe to be of far more importance both for the performance of your retirement account and your own well-being is working with the right gold investment professional.
Having a true expert on your side can help make the difference between a gold IRA that merely tracks the gold price, versus one which soars in value.
The trust and bond which you can develop with a good precious metals advisor can be of just as much value to you as the metals you buy – knowing a gold broker has your best interests at heart and is genuinely looking out for you can’t be underplayed especially when the gold market is known for having more than it’s fair share of villains.
The past 6 years have seen several large-scale budget gold dealers in the US, go out of business or be closed down by the feds, owing their customers millions.
Besides finding the lowest premium and the lowest rarely translates into anything more than the most basic of services.
Gold IRA FAQ
Don’t have time to read the whole article? The following Gold IRA FAQs quickly cover key questions related to the gold IRA process from rules and regulations to myths, misunderstandings and everything in between.
Click on the questions below to reveal the answers:
Have Gold IRA questions we’ve not covered?
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