How is GLD Taxed in an IRA?

Internal Revenue Code has long discouraged IRAs from purchasing and holding physical precious metal coins or bullion as this investment would likely be considered by the IRS as a taxable distribution and taxable to pay back.

But precious metal ETFs classified as grantor investment trusts such as SPDR Gold Trust GLD, -1.47% have an exception that operates differently:


Precious metal gains won’t be subject to tax until they’re distributed from your IRA; higher income tax payers could see their gains affected by a 3.8% net investment income tax.

Under certain rules, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs) are allowed to directly invest in physical precious metal coins and bullion that meet certain purity requirements (e.g. American Gold Eagle coins). They can also hold indirect investments like precious metal ETFs and mining stock.

Physical metals IRA costs may be higher than traditional or Roth IRA costs, including one-time setup fees and annual custodian or depository fees charged annually, plus storage fees for your bullion. You may be able to reduce these expenses by working with providers that offer bundle services such as combined custodian/depository packages or by opting for an alternate custodian/depository provider; consulting with an advisor will also be helpful.


Thanks to a statutory exception, your self-directed IRA can invest directly in certain precious metal coins and bullion that meet applicable purity standards without incurring taxes and penalties. But there are certain rules you must abide by in order to do so successfully.

An IRA cannot hold collectibles like artwork or jewelry. Furthermore, foreign currency or derivative investments like commodity ETFs cannot be included within its investments.

Care must also be taken not to mix gold owned in an IRA with assets owned elsewhere, which the IRS contends violates Section 408(a)(5) which forbids this practice and the Tax Court has upheld this position in this instance.

Emma and Lucas, two individuals with different taxable incomes, are both considering using an IRA to invest in physical gold American Eagle coins. Their situation shows how IRAs can help investors both pre-tax and post-tax; with proper planning. Gains on gold investments held for over one year typically count towards ordinary income taxation rather than any IRA’s tax status.

Required Minimum Distributions

Many IRA owners wish to diversify their retirement assets with precious metals. It’s essential that they remember a few factors when doing this, including.

As described above, using your IRA funds to purchase physical coins and bullion can result in a penalty tax if your required minimum distributions do not meet IRS deadlines. But there is an exemption available for certain precious metals.

IRS issued a private letter ruling declaring that IRAs can purchase precious metal ETFs that fall into the category of grantor investment trusts such as SPDR Gold Trust GLD, -1.47% and iShares Silver Trust SLV, -1.18%.

Traditional, SEP and SIMPLE IRA account holders must begin taking RMDs by April 1 of the year following when they reach 72 (or 73 if turning that age in 2022). One way to circumvent paying any potential penalties would be through making a QCD transfer with assets donated directly to charity.

Early Withdrawals

As stock markets remain volatile, many investors may wish to diversify their holdings by purchasing physical gold or precious metals through an IRA. But there are several key things they should keep in mind before making their choice.

One of the primary concerns surrounding investing in collectibles through an IRA could be treated as a taxable distribution, which could severely diminish your retirement savings.

An effective solution to this dilemma is using a self-directed IRA company that facilitates direct IRA-to-IRA transfers without touching your hands directly. Many of these firms maintain relationships with multiple precious metal dealers and can choose which dealers to work with for each of their clients’ IRA investments, eliminating the risk of breaking IRS regulations while saving storage and custodial fees at the same time.

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