Futures & Commodities

Physical gold might be the best hedge against global uncertainties – but it’s all about how you hold it

Key Points
  • Gold could be best held physically, according to the CEO of The Pure Gold Company.
  • Tax benefits and security are among the benefits highlighted by Josh Saul.
  • Gold is exempt from capital gains tax in the U.K. but not the U.S.
The Pure Gold Company: Investors buy gold in response to geopolitics
The Pure Gold Company: Investors buy gold in response to geopolitics

Gold's role as a 'safe haven' asset in times of uncertainty is widely acknowledged, but according to the chief executive of The Pure Gold Company, it's all about how you hold it.

Physical stores of the precious yellow metal could prove far superior to the other growing varieties of gold holdings, Josh Saul told CNBC Friday, highlighting its security and tax benefits.

"Physical gold is motivated by people who want long term protection. The benefit of having physical gold is that you have a physical store of wealth, plus there are also several tax advantages," Saul said.

However, this all depends on who you are and where you store it.

In the U.K., investment grade gold coins are not subject to capital gains tax, meaning that U.K. residents do not have to pay tax on any appreciation in the price of their stash. This applies to some of Britain's most popular coins such as Britannias and Sovereigns, which are produced by the U.K.'s Royal Mint.

But, in the U.S., gold is treated as a capital asset and a collectible, meaning it is subject to capital gains tax. This is also true of parts of Europe.

"Given what we've seen in Europe with regards to Brexit implications, a lot of our (British) customers are getting their money out of Germany, France and Italy, for example, and into gold, whether they're living in the U.K. or not," Saul said.

He also noted the metal's attributes as a hedge against unpredictable monetary policies, economic risks and cyber-attacks.

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

These benefits are also what have caused gold to evolve from the somewhat antiquated bullion vaults of old, however. It is now available in various forms, including electronically and via exchange-traded commodity funds (ETCs).

Townsend Lansing, head of ETCs at ETF Securities, noted that gold ETCs can mitigate some of the associated costs of storing physical gold. Storage costs can add around 3-5 percent onto the cost of buying physical gold.

"Gold Exchange Traded Commodities (ETCs) supersede the inefficiencies of holding physical gold by their low costs, transparency and liquidity. ETCs are easier to manage, and are a cost effective way for investors to gain exposure to a commodity that would usually be expensive and risky to store," Lansing told CNBC via email.

Saul acknowledged that such vehicles can sometimes be more cost efficient for short term investors looking to "buy today and perhaps sell in a few weeks' time."

Germany's central bank this week announced that it had successfully returned over 50,000 gold bars to its vaults in Frankfurt.

The $27.9 billion dollar stash had been being stored at the Federal Reserve in New York and France's central bank, Banque de France, in Paris as a hedge against political and currency risks. But improved domestic politics following the end of the Cold War prompted Germany to launch a "thorough and exhaustive" operation to return the bars to the country.

Germany's Bundesbank is one of the biggest gold holders in the world. Saul said this points to the significance of having the physical metal as a cash reserve.

"I believe there is a reliance on them (Germany) having some sort of physical, tangible store of wealth, rather than relying on paper money that can be manipulated, created and devalued over time," Saul noted.

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