What Are Taxes on Physical Gold and Silver Investments?

What Are Taxes on Physical Gold and Silver Investments?

4 Min.


Investors often favor possessing physical gold and silver over exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that allocate capital to these precious resources. Although the tax ramifications of ETF ownership and transactions are transparent, the intricacies of taxes linked to physical bullion ownership are often misunderstood. Herein lies an exposition on the taxation of these investments, encompassing tax reporting obligations, cost-basis computations, and strategies for mitigating tax burdens resulting from the liquidation of physical gold or silver.

Taxation of Precious Metal Sales

The IRS categorizes physical holdings in precious metals like gold, silver, platinum, palladium, and titanium as collectible capital assets. Whether in the form of bullion coins, bars, rare coins, or ingots, these holdings are subject to capital gains tax, applicable only upon their sale and after a minimum one-year holding period.

Unlike tradable securities like stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs, selling physical precious metals incurs a distinct capital gains tax treatment. It aligns with your marginal tax rate, capped at 28%. Thus, individuals in the 33%, 35%, and 39.6% tax brackets are taxed at a maximum rate of 28% on their physical precious metals sales, while short-term gains are taxed at standard income rates.

Reporting Requirements for Precious Metal Sales

Tax obligations upon the sale of precious metals do not immediately apply. Instead, you must report these transactions on Schedule D of Form 1040 in your annual tax return. The necessity to submit Form 1099-B to the IRS depends on the type of metal being sold, as these sales are regarded as income. Reporting is mandatory for items such as $1,000 face value of U.S. 90% silver dimes, quarters, half dollars, and 25 or more 1-ounce Gold Maple Leaf, Gold Krugerrand, or Gold Mexican Onza coins. Additionally, gold and silver bars weighing 1 kilogram or 1,000 troy ounces require such filing, while American Gold Eagle coin sales are exempt. The tax liability for these sales aligns with the due date for your ordinary income tax bill.

Determining Cost Basis for Physical Gold and Silver

The tax liability associated with selling precious metals hinges on the cost basis of the metals themselves. If you acquire these metals independently, your cost basis aligns with the purchase price. Moreover, the IRS permits the inclusion of specific expenses to the basis, potentially reducing future tax obligations. This includes costs like appraisals.

Cost basis computation for physical gold or silver varies in two distinct situations. Firstly, when receiving these metals as a gift, your cost basis equates to the market value on the day the donor acquired them. If, at the time of gifting, the market value is lower than the donor's purchase price, your basis equals the market value on the gifting date. Secondly, when inheriting gold or silver, your cost basis is established as the market value on the date of the original owner's demise.

Illustrative Tax Scenario and Offset Options

Let's consider a scenario for clarity. Assume you acquire 100 ounces of physical gold today at a rate of $1,330 per ounce. After two years, you divest your entire gold portfolio at $1,500 per ounce. Your income falls within the 39.6% tax bracket, and the ensuing situation unfolds as follows:

  • Cost Basis: 100 x $1,330 = $133,000
  • Sales Proceeds: 100 x $1,550 = $150,000
  • Capital Gains: $150,000 - $133,000 = $17,000
  • Tax Liability: 28% (maximum rate) x $17,000 = $4,760

To mitigate this tax burden, it's worth noting that capital losses from other collectibles can be employed as offsets. For instance, if you experience a $500 loss on the sale of silver, you can offset these amounts, resulting in a reduced tax liability of $4,260. Alternatively, you can preserve the $500 loss as a carry-forward for future tax purposes.


Investing in physical gold and silver involves unique tax considerations. The IRS classifies these metals as collectible capital assets, subject to a maximum capital gains tax rate of 28%. Reporting requirements include Schedule D of Form 1040, with Form 1099-B for specific scenarios.

Cost basis varies by acquisition method and may include eligible expenses, crucial for accurate tax reporting. Capital losses from other collectibles can offset tax liabilities from precious metal sales, offering valuable tax planning strategies. These considerations guide investors in the complex world of physical gold and silver investments.

Precious Metals
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