Given that precious metals are valued by investors around the world, knowing import and export requirements is essential for transacting with global partners. Export restrictions, declaration statements and taxes are among the items that must be addressed to sell or purchase metals successfully. Although requirements vary between countries, there are some general guidelines to follow when importing and exporting precious metals.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency does not require importers or exporters to have a license to trade precious metals with foreign partners. However, the U.S. government does periodically impose trade sanctions against specific countries, prohibiting many or all types of trade with those nations. The Office of Foreign Asset Controls of the Department of the Treasury provides information regarding current sanctions. The need for a broker’s license, special permits and government approval for importing or exporting varies by country and government agency.
Investors and proprietors must identify government qualification criteria for precious metals, because purity thresholds are often set for tax purposes. This means that there has to be enough gold, silver or platinum, among other metals, contained in a single investment vehicle to meet government precious metals specifications. For instance, Australia mandates that gold must be 99.5 percent pure, that silver must be 99.9 percent pure and platinum must be 99 percent pure to qualify as a precious metal for goods and services tax purposes.
Precious metals come in a number of different forms, including bullion coins, bars and jewelry, among others. The size and shape of the investment vehicle being imported or exported directly impacts shipping methods and constraints. For instance, collectible bullion coins are often placed in protective plastic cylinders to prep them for transport. So, investors and proprietors must think carefully about the feasibility of importing bars versus coins and vice versa, given the amount of precious metals being bought or sold. For bulk investment orders, bars may be preferable compared to small coins, simply because bars are easier to handle.
Some governments have import tax, restriction and declaration requirements, but this varies greatly between countries. For example, Australia does not impose a goods and services tax on precious metals that are in an investment form and meet the qualification criteria for precious metals. However, the government does require a declaration statement for import amounts over $1,000 and has other requirements below that threshold. The U.S. government requires declaration of precious metals upon entry into the country and filing of form FinCEN 105 for precious metals currency over $10,000. Also, as of publication, the U.S. restricts the import of metals from Cuba, Iran and specific parts of Sudan, making it important to know government guidelines before importing precious metals.
Many governments also have taxes and restrictions on exports to other countries, especially those regions of the world that are under United Nations sanctions. As of July 2013, Sweden restricted the export of precious metals to Iran, making it unlawful to deal with agents in that country. Similarly, the U.S. prohibits exports to Iran, among other countries it has political disagreements with. Those importing and exporting must pay close attention to these types of prohibitions if they want to stay on the right side of the law.