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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Physical Gold Holding and Tax liability

Check the tax guidelines before you book profits on gold holdings

If you value gold as an investment avenue, this is a good time to sell part of your holdings and earn a profit. Demand for gold during the current marriage season saw its price peak to `20,800 for 10 grams on November 24. It has since been moving in the same range. Yet, depending on how long you have held the metal and in what form, there will be certain tax implications.

Like land and shares, gold is also considered an asset. Any profit on the sale will attract tax.

The rule for taxation differs for gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs), gold equity funds and physical gold.

Profits from physical gold, such as gold coins, bars or ready jewellery, if sold within three years, are considered short-term capital gains (STCG). They would be added to your total income for the year and you have to pay the tax according to the tax slab applicable.

Selling physical gold assets after three years is a better idea. The holding period of the investment is an important aspect that is looked at by the income tax department.

Long-term capital gains (LTCG) are applicable to gold investments sold after three years. You could use the indexation benefits of LTCG and pay only 20 per cent on the amount earned.

With gold prices rising, the demand for alternative investment opportunities in the metal, such as gold ETFs and gold equity funds, too, are rising. Year-on-year (Y-o-Y) returns from both, gold ETFs and physical gold, has been 13 per cent, on average.

Gold ETFs offered by funds like HDFC or Religare invest in physical gold bars. Investors buying ETFs hold the fund's units. The value of a single unit is equal to approximately one gram of gold.

Gold equity funds such as DSP Black Rock World Gold Fund and AIG World Gold Fund are schemes that typically invest in other international fund of funds, that buy the stocks of companies involved in gold mining.

Both ETFs and gold equity funds are treated as debt funds and taxed accordingly. Selling within a year would attract STCG. For sales after a year, an individual could have to pay the LTCG tax. Under this, you either pay 10 per cent tax without any indexation benefit or 20 per cent on the amount earned or avail indexation benefit.

All LTCG taxes attract an additional three per cent educational cess.

If the new Direct Taxes Code structure takes effect from April 1, 2012, in its present form, investors need to keep in mind the holding period of the investment. Investment assets that have been held on for a year from the end of the financial year during which the asset was purchased will be taxed according to the income tax slabs. But the amount of profit will be arrived at after indexation.

For instance, assume one has sold his gold assets for `2lakh. If after indexation of cost (1.2 lakh), his profit is `80,000, he would add this amount to his other income and pay taxes depending on the tax slab he falls under.

Besides the tax angle, investors are advised to take a cautious approach to selling their gold. Despite the run-up in gold prices, one cannot rule out a further hike. It might be best, for investors, to sell just a part of their gold allocation.

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