Does President Obama Want to Confiscate Your Gold?
Article printed from Stock Gumshoe:
Hereâ€™s how the headline reads â€œUrgent Gold Investing Alert:
â€œPresident Obama Wants to Confiscate Your Gold
â€œBuried deep inside the healthcare reform bill is a law that could set the stage for the federal government to take away ALL your gold. By 2012, it probably wonâ€™t be safe to own gold bars, rare coins or gold ETFs.
Sounds intriguing, right? They never mention black helicopters, the New World Order or the bizarre â€œAmeroâ€ claptrap about a new NAFTA currency, but with the political vitriol at such a peak they donâ€™t really have to â€” they know that just mentioning Obama and the health care plan will make people furious, especially the core target demographic for investment newsletters (that may well be you, too â€” white men who are richer than average and in their 50s-70s).
But the copywriters here essentially build a case for gold, which we probably all know (in short, the race to competitively devalue every currency on earth is leading to increasing gold and silver prices as the only traditional â€œcurrency alternativeâ€, and the emerging world, particularly China, is buying up gold to diversify away from the dollar and bring their gold reserves up to the standards of the rest of the worldâ€™s reserve banks).
On top of that, however, they add this confiscation threat â€” this time the threat is based on the health care bill, which does include a provision that makes coin trading more of a hassle (more on that in a minute) â€¦ but to be honest, copywriters havenâ€™t ever really needed a â€œrealâ€ threat to conjure up thoughts of gold confiscation. They just bring up the memory of FDR in the 1930s, making private gold ownership illegal and forcing everyone to turn in their gold.
Of course, that was a very different turn of events than weâ€™re probably going to see again in our lifetime: The US was on a gold standard at the time, so in effect what FDR did was call in all privately held gold (mostly coins) so that he could devalue the dollar and set a new gold standard.
Itâ€™s much harder to imagine a rationale for government confiscation of gold at this point â€” FDR had a purpose, one that we might not agree with, but, to simplify: he couldnâ€™t devalue the dollar and pay for the New Deal without confiscating gold. As you might be thinking to yourself right now, the Federal Reserve and the US Government need no additional rights and none of your gold in order to devalue the dollar â€” theyâ€™ve been doing it for years and will probably continue, regardless of whether or not you have a few gold coins buried in the back yard. The ad goes into far more detail on this, including the re-telling of that FDR story, and the reminder that the â€œrightâ€ to own gold is actually a privilege that Congress can take away.
Taxing and tracking the â€œgold economyâ€ is another matter, however, and thatâ€™s where this threat comes in from the healthcare bill. Hereâ€™s how the teaser describes it:
â€œThe official law is in section 9006 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
â€œVery few people have read all 10,909 sections of that bill and even fewer understand the ramifications of section 9006 on gold.
â€œThe healthcare bill has nothing to do with gold, which is exactly why Congress hid this law there.
â€œThey certainly werenâ€™t going to put out a press release when theyâ€™re taking away the rights of private citizens.
â€œThe law starts by facilitating the taxation of anyone wishing to sell over a certain amount of physical gold, even rare collectible coins.
â€œIt also makes it easier for the federal government to keep track of who owns gold and how much they own.
â€œAnd it sets the stage for removing your right to own gold.â€
You may well have heard of this provision before â€” Iâ€™ll personally go out on a limb and say that it probably started as some Congressional stafferâ€™s idea for how to cut down on tax cheats, but the way the final law ended up being worded means that it creates, at the very least, a logistical nightmare for small businesses and the self employed. That provision of the law, intended, Iâ€™m sure, to help pay for the expensive health care legislation, essentially ups the requirement for filing 1099s for transactions â€” it keeps the $600 ceiling thatâ€™s already in the law, but instead of limiting it to services and exempting corporations it includes tangible goods and any business transactions.
That would serve to cut down on tax cheating if people followed it, I imagine â€” Iâ€™d have to file a few dozen 1099â€²s myself for various goods and services I pay for during the year, and Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™d receive a lot more 1099s from people and companies with whom I do some minor amount of business. I, of course, already report all those things on my taxes with complete openness, but Iâ€™m sure some people do not (no, Iâ€™m not looking at you. Why would I be looking at you?)
But it would also create a real stimulus for the accounting and bookkeeping industry, since keeping track of all these commercial relationships and filing such minor transactions with the IRS would dramatically increase the paperwork behind a lot of businesses. And of course, the IRS is probably in no shape to handle this additional burden, they already lack the ability to catch the people who brazenly cheat on their taxes.
Itâ€™s also got pretty much everyone in an uproar on both sides of the aisle, and Iâ€™d wager that weâ€™ll see some dramatic license in the way this law is enforced, or a significant change in the law, before it goes into force on January 1, 2012. But if the law does go into force as written, what happens?
Well, it probably means that if you buy a gold coin you have to report it on a 1099 â€” assuming that your total transactions with the other party total more than $600 for the year, which they would if the total involved was at least a half ounce of gold. Of course, income from gold transactions is already taxable, and if you sell a coin at a profit itâ€™s a taxable gain at your marginal income rate, but there hasnâ€™t been a real reporting system in place for these small transactions â€” and in the case of American Eagle gold coins specifically, there wasnâ€™t even a rule that coin dealers had to get any information about you.
So I suppose the fear, if you believe that thereâ€™s some reason to think that the government is going to want to confiscate your gold, is that they could somehow, over the years, use these 1099 filings to track who has gold coins. And since the dollar is falling, the only way to restore some fiscal solvency is to go back to a gold standard, which would mean that the feds would need a lot more gold to back the currency, which would mean that theyâ€™d have to come get your gold.
And the immediate concern is that there will be additional friction on private gold sales, since the requirements of filing 1099s will make the process more of a pain and ad a little cost (or, if you were planning on cheating on your taxes, perhaps a lot of cost). That means that possibly buying and selling gold bars and coins might be more of a pain, though the teaser extends that to say the same thing for ETFs (though as far as I know those are already covered by the tax forms you get from your broker), all in the service of telling us that the one kind of gold that isnâ€™t covered by this â€œsection 9006.â€
Of course, we have absolutely no idea what the new 1099 form would look like if this law does go into force as planned â€” the current 1099 MISC form, FYI, says nothing about what services are provided, though your brokerage 1099 filings are clearer about the specific underlying transactions, so is the new form going to have a place to enter specifically that your friendly neighborhood Stock Gumshoe bought an iPad from the Apple store (or a gold coin from some dude on eBay)?
If I had to file a 1099 for buying a gold coin from someone using the current form, no one, including the gum mint, would know that what changed hands was a gold coin (though, to be fair, if I sold someone $600 worth of fish it would have to be reported in the special Fishing Boat Proceeds box) â€” the IRS concern is not what services are paid for, but that the amount gets entered as taxable income somewhere. And since under this new reporting requirement there would be billions of additional 1099s for everything from hotel stays to computer purchases, itâ€™s a bit tough to see the IRS focusing on finding the transactions that involve gold â€” or, in all honesty, even computerizing and collating all that information if even a portion of it is filed in paper form.
Hereâ€™s how they put it in the ad:
â€œAs the story reaches more and more Americans, it could create a gold-buying mania that could make goldâ€™s price rise of the past two years look like chump change.
â€œWhen that happens, most Americans could rush out and buy as much gold as possible before the law takes effect.
â€œThatâ€™s exactly what the feds want you to do.
â€œAnd itâ€™s the wrong course of action.
â€œYou see, the more people who stock up on physical gold before 2012, trying to beat the law, the more gold theyâ€™d eventually be able to take away.
â€œAnd make no mistake, section 9006 is the first step on the road to taking away your gold.â€
As you can probably imagine, I think that last line is pure poppycock â€” but you might well disagree, I suppose, and we can come back in a few years and find out if the government has started confiscating gold to create more of a federal gold hoard and go back to a â€œgold standardâ€ backing some new dollar (The US already has the largest gold hoard in the world, assuming that the reports are accurate, of about 8,300 tons â€” the GLD ETF, by comparison, has about 1,300 tons, and the next biggest sovereign pile is in Germany, with 3,400 tons â€¦ Iâ€™ve seen reports, no idea how accurate they are, that there are about 50,000 tons of proved reserves yet to be mined).
Iâ€™ve got a long list of things that I consider far more likely and worrisome than private gold confiscation, but again, youâ€™re welcome to disagree. And Iâ€™d say Iâ€™m neither a gold bug nor a gold doubter, I do have a portion of my portfolio in both physical metals and mining shares, probably around 15-20% including silver, and depending on how you count such things.
I think the reporting of small precious metal transactions is a strange side effect of this new filing requirement that seemed clearly designed to more broadly make sure that more of the taxable economy was, in fact, taxed â€” gold coin sales, Iâ€™m sure, are a merest tiny fraction of the annual unreported cash changing hands, under the table or not, for house cleaning and lawn mowing, and I give no credence at all to the fear that this proposal is secretly designed to get the feds hands on your gold coins. I donâ€™t like the new law and I expect it will probably change, since itâ€™s likely to be a pain in the arse for everyone, but I donâ€™t think itâ€™s a secret first step toward gold confiscation â€” itâ€™s a stupid law, but gold isnâ€™t the reason itâ€™s stupid.
â€œGold could reach $2,500 in the next 18 months, even without the added threat of the feds taking away your right to own gold.
â€œThe dollar is getting weaker, and the U.S government is going deeper in debt.
â€œPresident Obama is spending money at will, hoping to buy his way to reelection.
â€œRest assured, gold will continue its long march up.
â€œAnd when the public catches on to the fedsâ€™ plans to take away your gold â€” the price should soar even higher.
John (aka Bacpro)