Precious metals have been a popular investment for retirement plans since the financial market collapse in 2008. Most standard IRAs with financial institution custodians will typically only offer precious metals through funds or other complex structures whereby the IRA does not directly own the precious metals. A self directed IRA can hold actual precious metals as long as those metals are not considered collectibles under law and as long as they are properly stored.
Only precious metals which meet the requirements of IRC § 408(m)(3) may be owned by an IRA. All other metals or coins are considered collectible items and cannot be held by an IRA. IRC § 408(m)(2)(C), and (D).
There are two categories of approved precious metals. The first category are specifically approved coins, such as American Gold or Silver eagles. The second category is bullion (e.g bars, or coin form bullion) that is gold, silver, platinum, or palladium, AND that meets certain purity requirements. The purity requirements are outlined below.
- Gold, meeting minimum fineness requirements of 99.5%.
- Silver, meeting minimum fineness requirements of 99.9%.
- Platinum, meeting minimum fineness requirements of 99.95%.
- Palladium, meeting minimum fineness requirements of 99.95%
Precious metals must be stored with a licensed financial institution or trust company. Personal storage of precious metals owned by an IRA is not allowed. A broker-dealer, third-party administrator, or any company not licensed as a bank, credit union, or trust company may not store precious metals owned by an IRA. IRS Private Letter Ruling 200217059.
If an IRA purchases precious metals that do not meet the specific requirements of IRC § 408(m)(3), then the precious metals are deemed collectible items. As a result, they are considered distributed from the IRA at the time of purchase. IRC § 408(m)(1). Similarly, if the storage requirement is violated, then the precious metals are also deemed distributed as of the date of the storage violation. IRS Private Letter Ruling 20021705. The consequence of distribution is that the value of the amount involved is deemed distributed and is subject to the applicable taxes and penalty.
By: Mat Sorensen, Attorney & Author of The Self Directed IRA Handbook
This article is an excerpt from Chapter 12: Precious Metals of The Self Directed IRA Handbook by Mat Sorensen