If you plan to travel with your gold, silver, or other precious metals, the key is to understand laws to avoid getting yourself into trouble. Prevent any risk of confiscation by planning, gathering information, and getting answers to your questions.
The First Thing to Know
Generally speaking, the issue is not the legality of transporting precious metal but a matter of what you must report.
Unfortunately, there is no uniform set of rules regarding the transportation of one’s personal precious metals because it varies from country to country.
It’s in your best interests to find out what rules are in effect in both the country you are moving your metal from and the country you are transporting it to.
This article is oriented to the U.S. but should serve as a general guide for wherever your travel beings and ends.
Only Two Ways to Go
Whether you are relocating, have purchased coins or bullion abroad to bring home, or have decided to store some of your investment in another country, there are only two ways to transport your precious metal across an international border:
- Inside personal belongings (e.g., in your pocket, bag, luggage, etc.)
- By a professional shipping service.
While a professional service will handle all the details, you should nonetheless familiarize yourself with the rules and declarations, as described below.
Currency and Monetary Instruments
The U.S. and certain other countries consider gold and silver coins to be currency or monetary instruments. In the U.S. specifically, the Treasury Department office known as the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) defines currency or monetary instruments as, among other things, “Coin or currency of the United States or any other country.”
However, a FinCEN ruling of March 2011 states that coins or paper money must satisfy these three conditions to be considered currency:
- designated as legal tender,
- in circulation, and
- customarily used and accepted as a medium of exchange in the country of issuance.
This may seem a bit confusing but the simplicity of it is that while gold and silver coins may be legal tender, you won’t find most, if any, in circulation or being routinely accepted as a medium of exchange.
Hence, your gold and silver coins are not monetary instruments or currency. However, when you transport certain amounts of them across borders, you will nonetheless spare yourself a potential headache by declaring the value of the so-called currency or monetary instruments. (This is covered below.)
Declarations and Reports
According to the U.S. Treasury Department, you’re required to report any movement of currency or monetary instruments with an aggregate value of $10,000 or more across U.S. borders. You can make this report using Treasury Form 105, “Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments” (CMIR).
Because you can’t know which Customs agent is going to consider if it’s currency or not, it’s best to file the Form 105 and avoid any potential harassment.
You might also want to have a copy of the FinCEN ruling regarding what constitutes currency. You can print it off here.
The U.S. Census Bureau also requires you to declare the export of certain commodities from the U.S. if its value exceeds $2,500. Failure to file this declaration can result in the confiscation of your metal as well as fines of up to $10,000 and possible prison time.
To make your declaration, you will file Electronic Export Information (EEI) with the U.S. Customs & Border Protection agency (CBP):
- Go to CBP’s ACE and Automated Systems website, at http://www.cbp.gov/trade/automated
- Click on “Apply for an Account” on the upper-right side of the page.
- Scroll down to the gray bar in the center of the page. Under “How to Apply,” click on “Fill out an Online Application.”
- On the “Apply for ACE Exporter Account” page, the first item requested is an (EIN #). This is an Employer Identification Number, the taxpayer ID number for a business. If you don’t have an EIN, you can apply to the Internal Revenue Service and get it via email. The U.S. Census Bureau has prepared step-by-step instructions, which you can access here.
- Once you’ve obtained your EIN, enter it into your application for ACE Exporter Account, then fill out the rest of the application and click “Submit.”
Depending on where you’re shipping from and to, you may not need to file an EEI. The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Title 15, Part 30, Section 30.2 (d) (2) lists the locations. Click here, then scroll down to “EEI Not Required.”
You are also exempt from filing an EEI if the precious metals you are shipping are valued at less than $2,500, according to Section 30.37 (a) “Low Value Exemption.”
The U.S. Census Bureau has published a quick guide to foreign trade regulations that shows all the requirements and exemptions. You can access it here.
You can save yourself a lot of time and headache by using an insured courier such as UPS or FedEx or a professional shipping service such as Brinks, VIA MAT, or Malca-Amit. Such shipping services are especially recommended for people who are moving very large amounts of metal, as these shippers can provide bailment service worldwide.
(“Bailment” is a temporary placing of control into the hands of another for a specified time and specified purpose. In the case of precious metals, a bailment service could transport your metal from one secure storage facility to another.)
Bringing Metals into the U.S.
According to the CBP website, “There is no duty on gold coins, medals or bullion but these items must be declared to a CPB Officer.”
Similar to export, if you are bringing in more than $10,000 worth, you must complete Treasury Form 105.
This does not include gold from embargoed countries including Iran and parts of the Sudan as such gold is prohibited from entering the U.S.
If you are dealing with fairly small amounts of precious metals, you should not have any difficulty. However, with larger amounts, unless you have a high tolerance for government paperwork and bureaucracy, you might want to look into the services of a professional courier or shipping service.