How Are Gains on Gold ETF Taxed?

How are gains on gold ETF taxed

One of the key aspects of investing is understanding its tax repercussions. Being informed can save you money and avoid unpleasant surprises down the line.

That is especially true of commodity ETFs such as gold ETFs that offer physical exposure; such funds are considered collectibles by the IRS and subject to a 28% capital gains tax when they’re sold.

Long-Term Gains

Though many investors mistakenly believe gold ETFs are taxed like stocks, it’s important to remember that taxes on gains vary depending on their structure. For instance, the IRS taxes gold ETFs that hold physical precious metals as collectibles at an effective maximum tax rate of 28% while commodity ETFs that invest in futures contracts typically incur the same 20% long-term capital gains rate as stocks and bonds.

Tax ramifications of investing outside of tax-advantaged accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs can be significant; to minimize their tax impacts when investing outside these tax-sheltered vehicles such as ETFs that hold physical assets over futures contracts can help limit this hit to investments outside tax-sheltered 401(k)s and IRAs. Being aware of tax implications before purchasing products like gold is crucial when looking at potential ways to gain exposure in its volatile asset class.

Short-Term Gains

If you hold gold ETFs in a non-tax-advantaged account like a brokerage account, their profits are taxed as regular investments; depending on their structure however, those profits could be subject to different tax rates than expected.

Specifically, if an ETF backed by physical precious metals is considered collectibles by the IRS for tax purposes. As such, long-term capital gains from such an ETF will be taxed at a top 28% capital gains rate as opposed to stocks’ standard 20% rate.

Considering these disparate tax rates can be substantial and highlights the importance of researching how your ETFs are taxed before investing. By understanding their potential repercussions before purchase, knowing your tax situation could prevent an unexpected bill at sale time and also keep assets that would have been better left alone longer on your balance sheet.


Commodity investing is often complex and dauntingly time consuming, with various forms, tax rules and rates to keep track of. Gold ETFs such as SPDR Gold Shares or iShares Gold Trust (which hold physical metal) present even greater challenges to successful investing.

Gains on physically-backed gold investments are treated like collectibles, similar to rare stamps or paintings. As a result, they’re subject to an additional 28% collectors’ rate that surpasses even long-term capital gains taxes levied at 15% for most taxpayers.

Investors must understand the tax ramifications of any ETF they invest in, particularly futures contracts-related funds. Many commodity-based ETFs do not require K-1 forms and usually apply both short and long-term capital gains rates when sold; for those with long-term investing horizons this can be an attractive alternative compared to owning physical gold or precious metals funds that must be held over years for long-term capital gains treatment; nonetheless it should always be thoroughly considered by all investors before making their decision.


Many gold ETFs provide exposure to physical gold and have attracted billions in new money this year. Under IRS rules, however, gains on such collectible assets must be taxed at the top 28% capital gains tax rate for investors.

Other ETFs with futures-based exposure (such as State Street SPDR Gold Shares and iShares Gold Trust) do not face this issue as their investments in commodity futures contracts are classified as ordinary income; however, these products are structured as limited partnerships because they do not own physical commodities themselves; investors will therefore receive a K-1 partnership tax form instead of the standard 1099 for reporting purposes and must adhere to special rules regarding commodities investments.

Most ETFs that track commodity prices utilize a grantor trust structure and may be subject to specific tax rules for commodities. Investors in such funds should carefully examine their tax characterization as some will issue K-1 forms upon sale of shares, while others could receive 1099s instead.

Raymond Banks Administrator
Raymond Banks is a published author in the commodity world. He has written extensively about gold and silver investments, and his work has been featured in some of the most respected financial journals in the industry. Raymond\\\'s expertise in the commodities market is highly sought-after, and he regularly delivers presentations on behalf of various investment firms. He is also a regular guest on financial news programmes, where he offers his expert insights into the latest commodity trends.

Categorised in: