18 November 2012

Moving gold in/out/around Australia

The question of the need to declare movements of gold/silver in/out of Australia (as well on domestic flights) pops up frequently, most recently on silverstackers. I left the following comment to that forum thread below.

I think we need to distinguish between the security screening and customs functions (international flights only), which have different purposes.

Domestically there are no customs - something to do with the Australian Constitution i think :) So the screening is just for security reasons so I see no reasons why you can't carry as much as you want on a flight within Australia unless the security people think you are going to clobber someone over the head with your PMs.

There possibly is some thing for the security people about looking out for potential criminal activity but I suspect they are just trained to look for anything out of the ordinary, which would account for the request to check what those discs or blobs of metal are in your luggage.

For international flights/customs, there isn't anything in the Migration Act 1958 about gold. In Division 3.1 (Information to be given by arriving persons) of the Migration Regulations 1994 there is nothing about the interpretation of the wording on the passenger card, which says:

"AUD$10,000 or more in Australian or foreign currency equivalent? Note: If a customs or police officer asks, you must report travellers cheques, cheques, money orders or other bearer negotiable instruments of any amount."

Same wording on outgoing declaration:

"Are you taking out of Australia AUD$10,000 or more in Australian or foreign currency equivalent? If answered ‘Yes’ you must complete a Cross Border Movement – Physical Cash (AUD$10,000 or more) Report to present with this card. Note: If a customs or police officer asks, you must report travellers cheques, cheques, money orders or other bearer negotiable instruments of any amount."

The above requirements come from the AUSTRAC Act 2006, Section 53:

"53 Reports about movements of physical currency into or out of Australia
(1) A person commits an offence if:
(a) either:
(i) the person moves physical currency into Australia; or
(ii) the person moves physical currency out of Australia; and
(b) the total amount of the physical currency is not less than $10,000; and
(c) a report in respect of the movement has not been given in accordance with this section."

The definitions section in the AUSTRAC Act 2006 defines physical currency such:

"physical currency means the coin and printed money (whether of Australia or of a foreign country) that: (a) is designated as legal tender; and (b) circulates as, and is customarily used and accepted as, a medium of exchange in the country of issue."

would seem to exclude Perth Mint coins and bars as they don't circulate as money. That is, precious metals are not reportable at all, and face value has no bearing. To back up this view, see this interesting article by the Australian Institute of Criminology where the whole focus is on cash money laundering (includes great examples of how people try to smuggle cash and stats on the number of cash reports). I just don't think money laundering in/out of the country via bullion is a big risk that AUSTRAC are interested in - I mean, it is going to show up on the security scanners so can't actually be smuggled. See the AUSTRAC Typologies page where I can't find anything relating to gold.

FYI, note that moving cash in/out of the country is allowed, you just have to report it, see this Customs PR release:

"A 44-year-old Stirling man was detained for allegedly attempting to export over AUD$182,000 cash out of Australia via Perth International Airport. ... On his Outgoing Passenger Card the man had declared he was not taking over AUD$10,000 in cash out of Australia. ... There is no limit to the amount of currency you can bring in or out of Australia, however, under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 you must declare amounts of AUD$10,000 or more in Australian currency or foreign equivalent."

However, note that in the article it says that "Customs officers subsequently referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the large amount of cash has been seized by AFP officers and investigations are continuing." While there is no law against such cash movements (just on not reporting it), keep in mind that the police can seize it if they think something dodgy is going on (proceeds of crime etc).

End result is, in my humble and non-legal advice opinion, while you don't need to report bullion, it will get picked up in the scanners and on the basis that such activity is not normal. Questions will be asked, so good to have proof of ownership so the AFP doesn't have cause to think it is proceeds of crime and want to "investigate" it further.


  1. I'm pretty sure that bringing gold bullion into aussie attracts duty, therefore you can only bring in $900 worth before being slugged.

  2. There is no duty/sales tax/GST on gold or silver as long as it is of the right purity (99.5%+ & 99.9%+ respectively) and an internationally recogised brand.

  3. Hi Bron

    "There is no duty/sales tax/GST on gold or silver as long as it is of the right purity (99.5%+ & 99.9%+ respectively)"

    Does that mean Gold Sovereigns(918/1000) would be taxed entering and leaving Australia?

  4. Yep, sovereigns and Krugerrands would be taxed entering Australia (but not leaving).

  5. Hi Bron
    Re tax on Sovereigns and Krugerrands.

    What is the reasoning behind the "purity" standard?

    Is it just a trap all governments spring from time to time?

    It must make your business extremely difficult knowing what to produce.

    I was thinking of adding to my collection of Sovereigns but it seems the best place to hold Gold is BullionVault or GoldMoney

  6. You're looking for "reason" in tax law?!?

    I think they just looked to the LBMA good delivery standard and worked off that purity. There wasn't any consultation with the bullion industry (just miners, and they don't care about downstream use of their gold) so the lower purity bullion coins got missed.

    As to the best place to hold gold, I think if you look further the Perth Mint's unallocated cannot be beaten.

  7. Hi Bron

    I'm a customer of BullionVault which works well and I've just signed-up for GoldMoney who I have no experience of yet and I'm still not sure about because of the "high profile" Turk.
    I'd not thought of Perth mint in the same way so maybe I could contact you by email.
    How do I get in touch?

  8. Just check out this link http://www.perthmint.com.au/investment_depository_overview.aspx

    We don't do online trading, if that is what you are after, but if you are looking for safety you can't beat fully insured plus a government guarantee with a Mint who processes 300+ tonnes a year.

  9. Hi Bron

    I've just been onto the Perth Mint site and this statement was a bit of a concern:-
    "The payment of the cash equivalent of gold due, payable and deliverable by Gold Corporation, the Mint or GoldCorp under this Act and all moneys due and payable by Gold Corporation ... is guaranteed by the Treasurer, in the name and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State."
    Doesn't this mean that if there was a currency collapse and Gold wasn't available the "government" would just pay out in "funny-money" instead of delivering Gold?

    1. Yes. In fact at some point the government will confiscate your gold and pay you what they want.It has happened before during the great depression.

  10. I don't understand what a currency collapse has to do with the government guarantee.

    Because all Depository accounts are 100% backed all currencies could collapse and it wouldn't make a difference to us or your ability to ask us to convert your holding into coins to use as money.

  11. What do you mean by "Gold wasn't available". Do you mean we have had some of our gold stolen or that no one is selling gold?

  12. Hi Bron
    I'm not being argumentative, just asking a question.

    "The payment of the cash equivalent of gold due"

    This seems clear to me but I could be wrong.
    There could be such a demand and shortage of Gold particularly if "Freegold" takes off that instead of providing Gold the equivalent in cash is handed over.

    Why does there need to be such a statement?

    Why not say "The guarantee is Gold and Gold is what you will get."

  13. Because Governments only have the power to tax (ie their revenues) in dollars or fiat of the day, not gold. Note also the wording refers to all debts ie those in dollars not just gold ones.

    Ironically under Freegold gold is never allowed to be "cash" so there is no way the Act could be drafted to refer to gold. In any case under Freegold there is always a price for gold in the fiat of the day, it is just not affected by leverage or currency drivers.

    In practice what would happen in the case of a loss of gold by theft for example and where the insurers were not paying out the Mint would simply go into the market and buy the replacement gold at whatever the price was and then invoke the guarantee and request the cash equivalent from the Government.

    The guarantee is what it is and certainly anyone can come up with a scenario under which it may not work, but then that same scenario applies to GoldMoney and BullionVault in which case you would be screwed by them as well. The GG is an extra benefit/safety measure we offer which others don't that provides a form of contingent insurance.

  14. Great info in post and comments. Thanks.

  15. @ duggo

    I thought that Bron would bring this up, but since he didn't, I will.

    You two have been talking about the Mint's unallocated metal.

    If you pay the extra to buy allocated, then it will be there for you to collect when you want it, or have it delivered as you wish.

    Of course, the government could always just steal it, but Bron has said that he does not consider that anything worth worrying about.

  16. SLL,

    I don't think the Govt stealing/confiscating/exappropriating the gold is a big risk but one should always "worry" or keep an eye on the situation as things can change!

  17. Dear Bron
    You seem a nice genuine guy but I have been "bitten" once by the British government and will never trust anything a "government" has it's hand in. Especially if they start "guaranteeing" something.
    I'll stick with BullionVault and GoldMoney plus a box buried in the woods.

  18. duggo, understand your general aversion to Government.

    However, the Perth Mint in its current form was created under the Gold Corporation Act in 1987, well before any of the recent funny business. Its intent is merely to promote gold for the benefit of the domestic mining industry and add value to Australia's gold production.

    It is also State government entity and has nothing to do with our Federal Government, which is the fiat issuing one.

    And whatever you think it is that Governments will do regarding the gold, the same applies to the Governments of the countries in which BV's and GM's gold is stored. Governments don't need to directly own them.

    Exactly what scenario do you envisage that metal at the Perth Mint is at risk? Bit hard for me to address your concerns without knowing what the issue is.

  19. A different question, Bron, if you don't mind.

    The current Fed government guarantee on deposits is $250,000. [And when you might get paid if the bank goes bust is not made clear.]

    Is there any limit on the State government guarantee on unallocated gold accounts with the PM ?

    1. The $250th deposits guarantee is a fiction. It only comes into effect after the government enacts enforcing legislation which can take up to a week. In the meantime distressed banks have the legal authority to grab your bank assets as they see fit. The Financial Sector Legislation Amendment (Crisis Resolution Powers and Other Measures) Bill was passed in 2017. It allows APRA to deal with a banking collapse by using "any other [financial] instrument" it sees fit to save failing banks. That phrase includes your savings deposits. APRA itself has confirmed that Australian banks have off-balance sheet derivative exposure totalling $13.8 trillion. Our national GDP is 1.56 trillion. Under the Basel Agreement Australia signed up to in Dec 2015 these derivatives traders take priority over every other bank creditor (which includes you!). Your $250th deposit guarantee is a worthless piece of paper.


  20. Dear Bron
    This probably won't make any sense but all through my life I have had this little person (some call it the subconscious) that pops into my head and either approves or disapproves and is also sometimes disinterested.
    If I ignore this voice I usually make a complete mess of things especially when it comes to savings and investment.
    In this World we have to make many decisions without the full facts. If we had the full fact then decision making would be a piece of cake. So I like to wait and eventually my "little internal man" gathers together his information and makes his presence felt. (He is not over happy about GoldMoney for reasons I can't put my finger on).
    He doesn't like me to get involved in question and answer scenarios because he knows that I have in my past life a lot of experience in marketing techniques and can persuade Eskimos to buy refrigerators. So I tend to give others the same qualities when it comes to promoting or defending something.
    Forgive me for not furnishing any "reasons". May be in time I will have some.

  21. Dear Bron

    I have an unallocated gold account with the PM and I have been mulling over whether I should just withdraw the gold bars and keep them in my possession. My concern is government confiscation.

    I've noted your comments regarding the very low likelihood of something like that happenning, and I do take you points. However, if it were true that there is no material risk in government confiscation, why would the Perth Mint offer allocated gold and storage? There wouldn't be any reason... other than getting more revenue from customers due to storage fees.

    I'd appreciate your views.

  22. Gordon,

    There is no limit on the State government guarantee over the Perth Mint. Obviously the government doesn't have unlimited finances so at some point we will have to close the Depository to new inflows as there will be a limit to the total amount of metal the WA government is prepared to guarantee.

  23. duggo,

    no problem. Something for your little internal man to consider about BV and GM is their market making ability, ie what are their trading lines with counterparties. I have heard of someone who had a BV account who wanted to buy but there were no offers in the BV system apart from some opportunistics inviduals.

    When he asked them they said they "ran out of gold" in their vault. End result is he couldn't take advantage of a big drop in the price.

    You can take this as a marketing spin but in the Mint we design and look at our processes and business model not just to work in current circumstances but in extreme situations. We know we are going to have large liquidations when the gold market bubbles and plan and prepare for that so we can offer a fair price.

  24. Anon,

    We offer allocated because it is a half way house between unallocated and personal possession.

    I wrote the text below well before 2008 (this is what I mean duggo by us forward planning) and put it up on our website (see http://www.perthmint.com.au/investment_invest_in_gold_storage_options.aspx) years ago, and I think it will answer your question:

    Clients worried about potential delays in collecting metal in extreme circumstances, but with concerns about the cost of allocated storage, usually take a staged approach:

    1. While the world environment is benign, they hold unallocated. They do not incur ongoing storage costs and fabrication charges.

    2. When the environment becomes uncertain and risky, they convert to allocated.

    3. When the world is at a crisis point, they take delivery of their physical metal.

    This approach can save clients significant amounts of money as it may be some time between stage 1 and 2. Clients who do not feel they can judge the shift from stage 1 to 2, or feel it may be sudden and unpredictable, opt for allocated as they are using precious metals as "insurance" and see the storage fees as the cost of that insurance.

  25. Dear Bron

    Thank you for your answer to my question regarding the reason for having allocated services (point 2 of the staged approach). I think I may be missing your point. Let me explain: If, according to your previous posts, PM is completely unlikely to comply with or suffer a request to confiscate from the Federal Govt., then there is no need for a customer to request allocated gold. Therefore, whether the environment is benign or uncertain/risky, stage 1 is as safe as stage 2.

    Kind regards.

  26. Not all customers see it as I do so Allocated is there for those who disagree with me. Some are highly risk adverse and hold Allocated now, others like having the option available and others when the get freaked out just go straight from Unallocated to physical delivery.

    Go to www.perthmintbullion.com and in the blog section have a look at a post called Fear Index to see how the percentage holding Allocated changes over time.

    Also, while I consider it highly unlikely, that is not the same as saying it can't happen. So I adovate monitoring the Australian political situation to see if there are any indications of a shift in attitude.

  27. Duggo

    I didn't like GoldMoney because they take fees from your gold (ie. James Turk is simultaneously nibbling at your cheese while looking after it). I dislike this on a gut/animal/emotional level.

    I also don't like Goldmoney because (until Bron, the GBI guys and Paul Tustain, Turk is either very gullible or is pretending to believe a lot of the goldbug nonsense out there.

  28. duggo,

    FWIW we hold Perth Mint certificates that we bought as a hedge to an exposure to Australian dollars that will be coming our way down the track.

    The attraction is as follows:

    1. We can roll the certificates for physical gold.

    2. We can cash out in a few hours.

    3. The Western Australian government guarrantee. (These guys have a rich history of refusing to be pushed around by the Federal government.)

    4. The Perth Mint has an excellent reputation on any criteria you want to apply.

    The bulk of our shrimp holding is in physical under our control but stored outside home.


  29. Dear Bron, Costata and Lord Sidcup

    Thanks for your inputs.

    Lord Sidcup: My "little man" agrees with your assessment of the "mouse" Turk nibbling at everyone's cheese.

    Costata: Thanks for being candid about your own position.

    Bron: I use BullionVault but take your point about the ability to trade in difficult times.

    Bron. My "little man" seems to be warming to Perth Mint.

    My diversification to GoldMoney would be as a result of a property sale but I shall now reconsider.

    I like Costata have a "shrimp" (well maybe Lobster) holding in physical coins which I purchase from CoinInvestDirect. I find them very competetive and their set-up and delivery is excellent to France.
    How does PerthMint compare?

  30. Duggo, I think diversifying across different custodians in different jurisdictions is a generally a good idea.

    As to physical in France, our retail trading is only to Australia and some asian countries. I don't think we would be freight competitive to Europe directly from Perth and you would be better off dealing with one of our distributors who get economies of scale in shipping in metal.

  31. Hi Duggo

    You might find this post useful.

    Freegolders advocate ownership of small bars and coins, which is an argument against BV* and GM.
    I can see their point; if for example there is a 'transition' and you own 20 ounces of a 400oz bar with the rest belonging to a 'giant', might not that giant force you to be cashed-out so they can take delivery?

    I can't have too much metal in my physical possession as will be moving between sev. countries next year, so I also tried GBI (through Hard Assests Alliance) and an Irish company called GoldCore (who offer Perth Mint products in Euro ).
    Both ship/allow collection at short notice.

    Although both companies have been excellent so far, GoldCore feels like a small company, while GBi/HAA seem to have bigger and more powerful backers; maybe they would have more clout during turbulent times? Maybe that will matter?

    Something else I have not seen discussed is that there may be less actual diversification with HAA/GC/BV/GM than people assume.
    As far as I remember all of these companies use Via Mat for Swiss/UK storage.
    So going through these 4 companies might mean that all your metal is in the same vault.
    Any custodian brings counterparty risk and this hypothetical scenario entails total exposure to Via Mat.

    *My inner man is a paranoid conspiracy-theorist and worries that BullionVault is a scheme to get goldbugs all over the world to buy metal for the Rothschilds (part owners of BV), who can then confiscate the metal after revaluation.

  32. Hi Bron and Lord Sidcup

    I notice CoinInvestDirect is a distributor of Perth Mint.

    Also GoldCore seem to have got it in the neck from Chard (another Perth Mint distributor).


    Now I need to get my head around Perth Mint's Certificate Programme and Depository Programme.
    Trying to work out which one is best.

    Unallocated is always touted as a big no no but it looks a pretty good idea with Perth Mint at first glance

  33. duggo,

    We went with the Unallocated program. Here's our reasoning. Two scenarios in relation to the WA government guarrantee.

    Let's say for some unkown reason the Perth Mint can't obtain gold at any price. This would force them to suspend the certificate program i.e. no new certificates issued.

    It would also be high risk to continue accepting new customer orders for metal until they knew the proportion of certificate holders who wanted cash vs metal. So they would have to talk to the certificate holders.

    Scenario two is the Mint can only source gold at an extremely high price. A price that is way beyond the level that the Mint's capital will support in their role as the market maker for the certificates.

    If the buy side of the market dried up for a time the only way to manage the government's exposure would be to fabricate and ship metal that we could keep or resell or have it allocated at the Mint. Either way we get what we want.

    I'm not offering advice here, simply sharing our thinking.

  34. Great contributions, all. Many thanks.

  35. "There is no duty/sales tax/GST on gold or silver as long as it is of the right purity (99.5%+ & 99.9%+ respectively)"

    I do not think this is a precise comment. The world "bullion" must be added. Perth Mint proof coins such as the 1986 - 1989 proof gold nugget sets are taxed entering australia from a foreign country. They are .9999 fine gold. I have shipped them and the customers were taxed. Proof coins are considered numismatic items by australia customs no matter what the mintage is.

  36. I was responding to a question about bullion. You are correct, any numismatic coin attracts the 10% GST no matter what the purity.

    The bullion also needs to have the mark of an internationally accepted manufacturer as well.

  37. Interestingly, these Perth Mint numismatic items such as the 1986-1989 Proof Gold Nugget coins do NOT trade at a premium to most BACK year bullion Nugget / kangaroos. At least not here in the USA.

    Small mintage bullion years such as 2000-2008 trade at a premium to the proofs 1986-1989. Even the proof nugget sets with fractionals from 1989 and 2 oz nugget proofs, do not trade at a premium to small mintage bullion years.

    Strangely recent 2010 and 2011 bullion nuggets have disappeared and are virtually unavailable at any price. I have seen the 2010 "boxing roo's" sell consistently for minimum +$200 when available.

    Point being, there seems to be no investment reason (premium appreciation or tax) for australians to import "numismatic" items other than personal taste. That personal preference will cost one dearly.

  38. Can I as a question about confiscation here... what would be the likely approach of Australian confiscation agents to bullion stored overseas (Singapore or Hong Kong) in the event of a confiscation. I agree with you in that possibility is unlikely, but then again who would want to rule it out, given the potential consequences of being left without a life presever in a currency devaluation. Would a confiscation order extend to gold stored overseas, and surely the owner would be able to argue that the bullion is inaccessable, insecure to transport, or otherwise simply delay the return thereof to Australia soil?

    Your help appreciated Bron.

  39. I think our bueaurecrats would have enough on their hands trying to work out how to implement any confiscation order domestically that overseas holdings would probably be last on the list, if they even thought about it.

    The strategies you mention are why overseas investors put their gold with us, so the same rationale applies to Australians.

  40. The original intent of this thread has not been completely settled yet, in my opinion. Bron offers an opinion here that bullion imports and exports do not need to be declared - is there any way that this can be verified/ confirmed? Does anyone have any direct experience with taking bullion in quantity in/out of the country? Surely customs could be called on directly to give a clarification?

  41. In answer to the original question, please refer to http://www.customs.gov.au/webdata/resources/files/ImportingPreciousMetalCoinsandBullions.pdf which provides a summary of GSTR 2003/10 available at http://law.ato.gov.au/pdf/pbr/gstr2003-010.pdf. Yes, PMs (as defined in the Act) are a duty- and GST-free import but this only applies to *traders* in PMs. Traders are further defined to be banks, bullion dealers, commodity brokers and stockbrokers: in other words, the interpretation is that an "ordinary Joe" will, of course, be subject to levies beyond the normal excluded amount of A$1000 on his imports.

  42. Thanks for the link, but this statement is not correct: "but this only applies to *traders* in PMs"

    From the pdf link:

    "Precious metals are a GST free supply from a refiner to a trader in precious metals. Otherwise, they are input taxed. They will, however, be a non-taxable importation"

    Note the definition of the following terms:

    GST Free = 0% GST
    Input Taxed = 0% GST
    Taxable = 10% GST

    which is why they say it will be a non-taxable importation, so an "ordinary Joe" will not pay any duty or GST on any investment precious metals brought into the country.

  43. Bron, thanks for your great blog. I have a personal interest in this question, so I want to be sure I get it 100% right. Further reading at http://www.ato.gov.au/corporate/content.aspx?doc=/rba/content/1012062966927.htm states:

    "All legislative references in this ruling are to the GST Act.

    Section 38-385 states:

    A supply of *precious metal is GST-free if:

    (a) it is the first supply of that precious metal after its refining by, or on behalf of, the supplier; and

    (b) the entity that refined the precious metal is a *refiner of precious metal; and

    (c) the *recipient of the supply is a *dealer in precious metal. "

    The PDF "flyer" I linked to before (two posts above) was obviously someone's attempt at condensing this legal language. If you read the statement here, however, you get the impression that if you are *not* a dealer in PMs then this expemtion wouldn't apply and so the import wouldn't be GST free.

    My goal isn't to split hairs -- if you know I'm wrong, please say so. I am just personally plowing through all I can find on au.gov websites to get the answer I need prior to my relocation. My read suggests I am not exempt since I am an average joe not a dealer.


  44. As per your ATO link, it says:

    "that the first supply of precious metal after its refining may be GST-free under section 38-385 and apart from transactions that fall within the ambit of section 38-385, supplies of precious metals are input taxed under section 40-100"

    As the metal your are importing is not the first supply of precious metals after its refining, it does not "fall within the ambit of section 38-385" it means that it falls under section 40-100 and is input taxed. The rate of GST for input taxed goods is 0%. Section 40-100 has no requirement to be a dealer.

    This is what your customs pdf document says also - "otherwise, they [precious metals] are input taxed" and will "be a non-taxable importation".

    Just take a copy of that customs document with you and if they try and charge 10% GST, point them to the section saying "be a non-taxable importation".

  45. Hi Everyone

    In the following link http://www.customs.gov.au/faq/ProhibitedRestrictedGoods.asp

    It states that coins which are still used as currency can be brought in and out of the country freely with not GST or duty applicable. British gold sovereigns are legal tender in UK, therefore does this mean they are tax free when flying back into Australia with them?


  46. there is a guarentee offered by the west australian govenment, note: NOT the australian commonwealth, but seriously if anyone fully believed that this would be honoured in a wtshtf situation then i offer my garage as a place to store your pms.

    and there is a diffenec between allocated and unallocated at the perth mint - i suggest researching the difference before resorting to this method

    also beware of the forthcoming bank bail ins

  47. jimbob

    sovereigns attrack a 10% gst in australia

  48. so back on point to this blog. Can I take 2kg of physical gold out of Australia without issue? or is it possible they will confiscate it. I already get searched each and every time because I 'travel too much' and they even admitted I am flagged in and out of Australia, however, I have no issues at other countries.

  49. hi, so trying to get back on point to this blog. Is it possible to fly out of an Australian airport with 2kg of gold? Is it possible or likely I would have it confiscated? what about postage, will their be any likely problems at customs or heavy taxes?

  50. Note blunt items


  51. Can you legally carry Krugerrands from NSW to QLD via plane without declaring them? (Only a couple)

    1. Yes, there is no restrictions on moving or needing to declare gold within Australia