Letter Re: How to Take Control of Your IRA

Sunday, Mar 25, 2012

I'd like to correct some misconceptions regarding both precious metals and "collectibles", some of which have been repeated in recent letters from readers.
First, regarding collectibles:  This term has a specific meaning under the Internal Revenue Code.  Its definition is found in 26 U.S.C. Section 408(m)(2), which says:
(2) Collectible defined
For purposes of this subsection, the term “collectible” means—
     (A)any work of art,
     (B)any rug or antique,
     (C)any metal or gem,
     (D)any stamp or coin,
     (E)any alcoholic beverage, or
     (F)any other tangible personal property specified by the Secretary for purposes of this subsection.
Note that firearms and ammunition aren't listed.  Item (F) clearly allows the Secretary of the Treasury to designate other tangible items as "collectibles" but as of today, this hasn't been done - so the term "collectibles" only includes the specific items in the list above.
Second, and perhaps more importantly for your readers, is the misconception regarding gold and silver and taking physical possession of it.  The simple fact is that you MAY take physical possession of certain gold and silver held by your self-directed IRA.  The applicable law is 26 U.S.C. Section 408(m)(3), which says:
(3) Exception for certain coins and bullion
For purposes of this subsection, the term “collectible” shall not include—
(A)any coin which is—
(i)a gold coin described in paragraph (7), (8), (9), or (10) of section 5112(a) of title 31, United States Code,
(ii)a silver coin described in section 5112(e) of title 31, United States Code,
(iii)a platinum coin described in section 5112(k) of title 31, United States Code, or
(iv)a coin issued under the laws of any State, or
(B) any gold, silver, platinum, or palladium bullion of a fineness equal to or exceeding the minimum fineness that a contract market (as described in section 7 of the Commodity Exchange Act, 7 U.S.C. 7) [2] requires for metals which may be delivered in satisfaction of a regulated futures contract,  if such bullion is in the physical possession of a trustee described under subsection (a) of this section.
This law seems to trip everyone up and I'm uncertain why, as it is very clear.  I will paraphrase it in the simplest language I can so it is crystal clear:
     (3)(A) The term collectible does not include U.S. minted fifty, twenty-five, ten or five dollar gold coins, U.S. minted one dollar silver coins, U.S. minted platinum coins or a coin issued by any state.
     (3)(B) The term collectible also does not include gold, silver, platinum or palladium bullion meeting certain fineness requirements if the bullion is held by a trustee.
The important point here is that the requirement that precious metals be held by a trustee ONLY applies to bullion, not to coins that meet the requirements of (3)(A).  
Finally, note that the coins in (3)(A) are all U.S. coins.  Foreign coins, even if they exceed the fineness requirements of their U.S. counterparts, are considered bullion and will need to be held by a trustee if kept in an IRA.
Best, - Matt R.

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