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Investors seeking more flexibility when building their retirement portfolios commonly opt to open a self-directed IRA (SDIRA).
This type of account enables them to purchase non-traditional assets like real estate, private company shares, precious metals, and even cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, precious metal IRAs, which support investments in gold, silver, and other physical metals, are among the most popular methods for incorporating bullion into a diversified portfolio.
In this guide, we share more details about one specific type of precious metal IRA — the Gold SEP IRA. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about opening and contributing to this retirement planning option.
What Is a Gold SEP IRA?
With a self-directed IRA, investors gain more control over the assets they can incorporate into their portfolios. The three main types of SDIRAs are Traditional, Roth, and SEP.
The majority of individuals save for retirement through an employer-sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k). However, if you’re self-employed or own a small business, you have to take charge of your retirement benefits. This is where a SEP IRA or Simplified Employee Pension plan comes in handy.
Like other traditional retirement accounts, SEP IRAs allow you to defer taxes on contributions and earnings until you start making withdrawals during retirement which will be taxed as ordinary income. The potential for decades of tax-deferred growth makes it possible to build a larger retirement fund compared to a typical taxable brokerage account.
SEP IRAs are suited for sole proprietors, small business owners, and partners due to their low cost and simplicity as they usually have fewer administrative burdens than other retirement plans. On the flip side, they have restrictions that may not work for larger businesses.
How Does a Gold SEP IRA Work?
Gold SEP IRAs can be easily set up by working with a provider that offers this type of account. After selecting a company, the necessary forms must be filled out to appoint a custodian, open an account with an IRS-approved depository, and fund the account.
Once the initial contribution is deposited, investors can purchase the precious metals they wish to add to their portfolio. The Gold SEP IRA company will then arrange everything so the assets can be shipped to the depository and will provide periodical reports detailing how the value of the account has changed over time.
The process can be summarized as follows
- Evaluate Gold SEP IRA providers and select one.
- Complete enrollment paperwork to open an account with an IRS-approved custodian and depository.
- Making an initial contribution and deposits in subsequent years.
- Purchase IRA-eligible gold, silver, or platinum coins and bars from the provider’s inventory or third parties.
- Investors can decide to liquidate assets and withdraw funds upon meeting IRS distribution rules.
|Traditional IRA||Roth IRA||SEP IRA|
|Tax break||On pre-tax income||When withdrawn||On pre-tax income|
|Contribution limits||$6,000 (49 and under) $7,000 (50 and up)||$6,000 (49 and under) $7,000 (50 and up)||$58,000 or 25% of your annual compensation (whichever is smaller)|
|Taxation||Withdrawals taxed as ordinary income||Taxed as ordinary income before contributed||Withdrawals taxed as ordinary income|
|Used By||Individuals with taxable compensation||Individuals with taxable compensation||Self-employed people, small business owners|
|Advantages||Contributions are fully taxed deductible if you are not covered by another retirement plan||You can take out your contributions and gains tax free||Allows you to save more than a Traditional or Roth IRA|
Gold SEP IRA Rules & Guidelines
While gold is the most common metal held in precious metal IRAs, other assets like silver, platinum, and palladium can also be included in a Gold SEP IRA. However, the IRS sets requirements for eligible investments.
Only the highest purity precious metals qualify for inclusion in a Gold SEP IRA. These required finesse levels are:
- Gold: It must be 99.9% pure or .999 fine. Purity levels below 99.5% are not permitted. Gold is typically viewed as a safe haven investment during economic turmoil.
- Silver: It must be .999 fine or 99.9% pure. It offers a more affordable option for budget-conscious investors. Silver is also in demand for manufacturing applications.
- Platinum: It must be 99.95% pure. Platinum is rare, durable, and commonly used in catalytic converters and fuel cells. Its demand may rise with the growing adoption of green energy.
- Palladium: It must be 99.95% pure. Palladium is rare and technological advances in renewable energy sources could drive demand.
Investors can purchase either coins or bars to incorporate metals into their Gold SEP IRA. Government mints like the U.S. Mint, Royal Canadian Mint, and Royal Australian Mint are often the preferred sources for IRS-approved coins.
Eligible coins and bars must adhere to these minimum purity standards to qualify for inclusion in a Gold SEP IRA account. Products from trusted refiners and mints will ensure compliance with IRS requirements.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) establishes the rules pertaining to how self-directed IRAs operate. In the case of SEP IRAs, investors must be aware of how they are different from the other two options — Traditional and Roth. Here’s an overview of the key features to keep in mind about SEP IRAs.
- Opening an account: only the employer can open a SEP IRA. The account can be set up by any legal entity employing at least 1 one person, including the owner. Freelancers and independent contractors can use this type of account to build a retirement fund. It is worth noting that if an account is opened for the owner of the business, one must also be opened for the rest of the employees. In addition, whatever percentage of the salary of the business owner that is deposited into his/her SEP IRA must also be deposited into the employees’ accounts.
- Contributions: Only employers are allowed to make contributions to a SEP IRA. As of this year, the maximum annual contribution that can be made to these accounts stands at $66,000 or 25% of the employee’s annual salary — whichever is less. Contributions are made on a pre-tax basis, meaning that they are a tax-deductible expense for the employer.
- Flexibility: Contribution schedules and amounts can be changed without informing the IRS. This gives employers the flexibility of being able to reduce their contribution to a SEP IRA during bad years or not make any if economic conditions are harsh.
- Tax-advantaged status: same as the other two types of SDIRAs, contributions, and earnings on a SEP IRA grow tax-free.
- Withdrawals: early withdrawals, those made before the employee turns 59½ years, are subject to a 10% penalty and have tax consequences. Once the employee reaches retirement age, he can start withdrawing funds and will only pay ordinary taxes on those distributions. In certain scenarios, employees can withdraw money before retirement age without being penalized. These circumstances include the purchase of a first home, the birth of a child, or certain medical expenditures.
- Rollovers or transfers: SEP IRAs can be rolled over to any other type of IRA by making the necessary arrangement with the account administrator.
Best Gold SEP IRA Companies
Many companies nowadays offer access to Gold SEP IRA accounts, giving investors exposure to precious metals within a tax-advantaged retirement plan. Each provider has differences in terms of fees, account minimums, features offered, and quality of their customer service.
To help you determine the best option for your needs, we evaluated and reviewed the top-rated Gold SEP IRA providers: Goldco, American Hartford Gold, Birch Gold Group, Noble Gold Investments, and Oxford Gold Group.
Our reviews examine the history and features of each provider, along with the pros and cons of their services from the perspective of a potential customer. By reading these objective comparisons, you can identify which Gold SEP IRA provider may be the best match based on your investment goals, risk tolerance, budget, and preferences for service and guidance.
Goldco provides access to alternative retirement accounts like Gold SEP IRAs. Founded over 17 years ago, Goldco has earned an A+ rating from the BBB, and it has sold over $1 billion in precious metals products. Read our full Goldco review to learn more.
- Customers can transfer and roll over funds from existing accounts to open a Gold SEP IRA.
- A minimum deposit of $25,000 is required to open an account with Goldco.
- Goldco offers gold and silver products that can be purchased for investment purposes and not necessarily just for Gold SEP IRAs.
- This provider offers a wide variety of gold coins, including American Eagles, Wright Flyers, Gold Liberties, Gold Phoenixes, and more.
- Silver and gold bars in various weights can be purchased with Goldco.
- Goldco has garnered a 4.8-star rating on Trustpilot, which shows a solid track record of satisfied customers.
- More than 17 years of experience and numerous positive online reviews.
- A broad selection of gold and silver products eligible for Gold SEP IRAs.
- Silver SEP IRAs are available for customers seeking portfolio diversification.
- Annual management fees may be waived for customers with high account balances.
- Some clients may find it inconvenient to open separate accounts for gold and silver IRAs.
Who Is Goldco Best for?
Goldco may be a good option for clients who already have sizable retirement accounts and want to incorporate gold or silver to diversify their holdings.
In A Nutshell
- Key Highlight: Exclusive gold buyback program
- Minimum Investment: $25,000
- Metals Available: Gold and silver bullion and coins, palladium and platinum
- Ratings: 4.8/5.0 over 200 reviews (TrustLink); 4.8/5.0 over 450 reviews (BBB) and A+ rating with BBB
2. American Hartford Gold
Regarded as a premier precious metal dealer, American Hartford Gold has shipped over $1 billion worth of gold and silver, earning its place as one of America’s fastest-growing private gold companies, according to Inc. magazine. Along with the possibility of purchasing gold and silver, American Hartford Gold also offers Gold SEP IRA accounts. Read our full American Hartford Gold review to learn more.
- Well-reputed provider with an A+ BBB rating and a 4.9/5 Trustpilot score, reflecting unmatched customer satisfaction.
- Vast choice of IRA-eligible gold and silver products.
- AHG requires a minimum $10,000 deposit to open an account.
- Live gold and silver prices are updated in real-time and displayed on AHG’s website.
- This provider works with industry-leading custodians and depositories like Equity Trust, the Delaware Depository, and International Depository Services.
- Around-the-clock live support to streamline the account setup process.
- Extensive experience serving thousands of customers and delivering over $1 billion in precious metals.
- Free shipping and insurance on all orders.
- Highest ratings in the industry for customer satisfaction and trustworthiness.
- Waives annual fees for 3 years on accounts exceeding $100,000.
- Endorsements from prominent figures like Bill O’Reilly and Rudy Giuliani.
- The minimum deposit is comparatively lower than competitors.
- Only offers gold and silver investments. Products made of other precious metals are not available to be purchased.
Who Is American Hartford Gold Best for?
By waiving 3 years of fees for accounts over $100,000, American Hartford Gold targets affluent customers who may save hundreds in fees compared to its competitors.
In A Nutshell
- Key Highlight: Exclusive buyback program for existing clients
- Minimum Investment: $10,000
- Metals Available: Gold and silver bullion and coins
- Ratings: 5.0/5.0 over 1000 reviews (Trustpilot); 4.9/5.0 over 267 reviews (BBB) and A+ rating with BBB
3. Birch Gold Group
For 20 years, the Birch Gold Group has served customers in all 50 states, earning a reputation for excellence through outstanding customer service, a wide variety of gold products, and retirement solutions like Gold SEP IRAs. Read our full Birch Gold review to learn more.
- Birch requires a $10,000 minimum deposit to open a Gold Roth IRA.
- This provider partners with industry-leading allies like STRATA Trust for custodial services and the Delaware Depository for storage.
- Customers can arrange visits to their appointed depository, a rare offering among gold IRA providers.
- Birch offers silver, palladium, and platinum products in addition to gold.
- Provides $1 billion in insurance coverage for the assets held in its Gold SEP IRAs.
- Nearly two decades of experience have earned Birch an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and a 4.6/5 Trustpilot score.
- Its website tracks precious metals prices and offers access to a newsletter for continuous gold investment education.
- Endorsements from political and financial luminaries like Ron Paul and Ben Shapiro give Birch an extra layer of credibility.
- Birch’s publicly-available learning materials may be considered too basic for seasoned investors.
Who Is Birch Gold Group Best for?
Beginners can benefit most from Birch Group’s educational resources and industry-leading custodian and depository partnerships that simplify the process of setting up a Gold SEP IRA. Though not the lowest, the required minimum deposit for Birch to open an account falls in the mid-range among all Gold SEP IRA providers.
In A Nutshell
- Key Highlight: Robust security features
- Minimum Investment: $10,000
- Metals Available: Gold and silver bullion and coins, palladium, and platinum
- Ratings: 4.9/5.0 over 130 reviews (TrustLink); 4.7/5.0 over 70 reviews (BBB) and A+ rating with BBB
4. Noble Gold Investments
For over 20 years, Noble Gold Investments has been managing customers’ assets while it currently oversees over $200 million worth of precious metals. This provider offers a large selection of gold and silver IRA-eligible products along with access to these tax-advantaged accounts.
The company is based in Texas and is one of the few that gives customers the chance to access a local depository operated by International Depository Services (IDS) for maximum convenience and peace of mind. Read our full Noble Gold Investments review to learn more.
- Noble requires a minimum deposit of $2,000 to open an account.
- Palladium and platinum products are also available.
- This provider offers access to a Texas-based depository that customers can visit.
- Noble’s catalog of products includes 5 gold coins, 6 silver coins, and multiple weights for gold bars.
- The account setup process takes roughly 5 minutes and can be completed online.
- Noble requires one of the lowest minimum deposits in the industry.
- Online account setup within minutes.
- A+ BBB rating and hundreds of positive ConsumerAffairs and TrustLink reviews reflect its customers’ satisfaction.
- Noble waives annual management fees for clients during their first year if certain conditions are met.
- Its systems are not designed to track asset values for clients in real-time.
Who Is Noble Gold Investments Best for?
Noble’s low costs make it an ideal choice for investors who want to open a Gold SEP IRA but cannot meet the higher deposit minimums of $10,000 or more required by other providers in this list.
In A Nutshell
- Key Highlight: Unique Survival Packs
- Minimum Investment: $2,000
- Metals Available: Gold and silver bullion and coins, palladium, and platinum
- Ratings: 5.0/5.0 over 120 reviews (TrustLink); 4.9/5.0 over 50 reviews (BBB) and A+ rating with BBB
5. Oxford Gold Group
Oxford Gold Group is a privately held California company that has been in business since 2003. They help clients set up and manage gold and precious metals IRAs. They also buy and sell physical precious metals, including gold, silver, platinum, and palladium.
- Customers can turn their existing IRAs into Gold SEP IRA accounts with this provider.
- Oxford provides access to physical precious metals, including gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. IRA-eligible coins and bars are available to be purchased.
- A minimum deposit of $25,000 is required to open an account with this provider.
- Ample catalog of available products, including South African Krugerrands, Canadian Maple Leafs, and other specimens from mints in Austria, Australia, and Great Britain.
- This provider partners with professional custodians and depositories to store its customers’ assets.
- Oxford offers guidance and support throughout the process of opening an account and managing the customer’s purchases and holdings.
- Hands-on guidance from IRA specialists.
- A wide range of educational resources and FAQs are available to customers.
- Oxford provides assistance to roll over funds from 401ks into gold SEP IRAs.
- This provider offers access to a buyback program for the metals it sells.
- Top-rated gold dealer and Gold SEP IRA provider as reflected by its 4.8/5 score on Consumer Affairs, 4.9/5 on Trustpilot, and an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
- Oxford does not disclose its fees on its website.
- Accessing its free investment guide was impossible at the time.
Who Is Oxford Gold Group Best for?
The Oxford Gold Group is best for investors seeking a very hands-on approach and detailed guidance through every step of setting up and managing a gold SEP IRA. Its educational resources and advisor support make it a good fit for those new to gold IRAs and wanting to learn the process.
In A Nutshell
- Key Highlight: Robust educational resources available to beginner investors
- Minimum Investment: $7,500
- Metals Available: Gold, silver, palladium, and platinum bullion and coins
- Ratings: 4.9/5.0 over 177 reviews (Trustpilot); 4.9/5.0 over 59 reviews (BBB) and A+ rating with BBB
Costs Associated with Gold SEP IRAs
Opening and maintaining a SEP IRA is typically costlier than regular ones. The reason for this is that there are other costs associated with managing and safekeeping the precious metals that are bought for them. Here’s an overview of what these fees are and the market’s average for each.
Some providers charge an initial account setup fee to cover the administrative work of opening an account with a custodian and trustee. This fee can go from $50 to $500.
A SEP IRA holder appoints a trustee to maintain records, process transactions, manage the relationship with the depository, and more. Fees for this concept typically range from $100 to $300 annually.
Most gold dealers charge a restocking fee ranging from 1% to 5% to process refunds and returns of damaged or unwanted products.
Markups and dealer fees
Gold sellers make money by adding a premium above the market price of the precious metal. Investors have to pay these unavoidable dealer markups of 2% to 5%. However, promotions may reduce prices occasionally and may partially or fully offset this cost.
IRS-approved depositories charge a yearly fee for securely storing the assets within the Gold SEP IRA. Depending on the storage option selected — commingled or segregated — fees may range from $100 to $150 per year. Additional charges apply for issuing special reports, providing access to the depository’s premises, and reception of new shipments.
IRS Approved Gold for Gold SEP IRAs
Investors have three main options when purchasing gold-made products for their Gold SEP IRAs. As mentioned earlier, the IRS establishes clear rules in regard to eligible precious metal investments. Here we summarize the options:
- Gold coins: Gold coins from government mints are a popular choice, including American Eagle coins from the U.S. Mint, Krugerrands from South Africa, and Maple Leafs from the Royal Canadian Mint. Any coins selected must comply with the purity requirements set forth by the IRS to be added to a SEP IRA.
- Gold rounds: Rounds minted by private companies rather than government mints offer convenience. Popular options include products from APMEX and Rosland Capital. Rounds must also have a 99.9% purity to be IRA-eligible.
- Gold bars: Gold bars are ideal for high-net-worth clients seeking to consolidate assets into as few products as possible. They come in weights from 1 to 100 troy ounces produced by reputable refiners like Valcambi, Credit Suisse/PAMP, and the Perth Mint. These bars must have a purity level of at least 99.9% to qualify to be added to a SEP IRA.
How to Purchase Gold with A SEP IRA?
We have now covered most of the ground rules and provided you with an overview of the characteristics of a SEP IRA, along with a list of suitable companies that offer access to this type of account. Now, if you are ready to take the next step and open a Gold SEP IRA, here’s a step-by-step guide you can follow to set it up and make your first purchase.
Step 1: Determine The Source of Your Funds
Gold SEP IRAs are primarily designed for freelancers, independent contractors, and small businesses. As with the other two IRA types, these accounts can be funded by rolling over or transferring the assets from an existing tax-advantaged account — i.e., a 401(k), regular IRA, or another SDIRA.
A cash contribution is the easiest way to fund a Gold SEP IRA. Since contribution limits are much higher than those of Roth and Traditional IRAs, there should be no issue to meet the minimum deposits required by most Gold IRA companies.
It is also possible to roll over and transfer the assets from an existing retirement account to a Gold SEP IRA. To perform this operation, the employee must inform the previous account administrator so he can arrange the necessary paperwork to execute the transaction. Once the funds are received by the Gold SEP IRA provider, only the employer will be able to make contributions to the account.
There are two types of rollovers — direct and indirect. With a direct rollover, the funds are transferred directly from the previous administrator to the new custodian. Meanwhile, indirect rollovers require that the investor takes possession of the assets and deposits them with the new trustee within 60 days to avoid penalties and taxes.
Meanwhile, account transfers are much easier. These are IRA-to-IRA transfers that are arranged by the two administrators (former and new), and they can usually be completed much faster.
Step 2: Open A Precious Metals SEP Self-Directed IRA (SDIRA)
We have compiled a list of our top recommended providers for opening a Gold SEP IRA earlier in the article. These companies stood out for their wide product selection, years of experience, excellent customer service, and other important factors.
The account opening process can typically be done online, though some companies may require mailing some of the paperwork.
You’ll need to provide personal and financial details to the Gold IRA company and appoint both a trustee and depository to handle and store your precious metals purchases for the account.
When choosing a company, consider:
- Product selection: The variety of eligible gold, silver, and products made of other metals that are currently available.
- Reputation: Years in business, regulatory compliance, client reviews, and standing with the BBB.
- Fees: One-time and ongoing costs associated with account management, purchases, and storage.
- Ease of doing business: Streamlined processes, online account access, and access to live price feeds and educational materials.
- Customer service: Responsiveness, knowledge, and helpfulness of representatives, along with a decent number of channels available to reach out to them.
A reputable provider offering a wide range of IRS-approved products, reasonable fees, and great service will ensure you have a positive experience when opening and maintaining your Gold SEP IRA. Evaluate companies based on these factors in tandem with recommendations from credible sources to find the best fit for your needs.
Step 3: Fund Your New Precious Metals SEP SDIRA
Once you’ve selected a provider and opened an account, work with the trustee to determine your funding strategy and complete the required paperwork.
If you chose to fund your Gold SEP IRA through a rollover, you’ll need to contact the previous administrator and select a rollover method — direct or indirect.
For 401(k) rollovers, some plan administrators may only offer an indirect option. This is less convenient as you’ll initially receive only a portion of your balance while the rest is withheld and can only be claimed on your next tax filing.
However, for IRA-to-IRA rollovers — whether traditional or self-directed — the process may be faster since the two administrators can coordinate the transfer directly.
To fund through a rollover:
- Contact the previous administrator to request a direct or indirect rollover form.
- Complete the appropriate form and any other required paperwork.
- Provide details of your Gold SEP IRA custodian and depository.
- The previous administrator will transfer the funds to the new one based on your chosen rollover method.
In a direct rollover:
- Funds are transferred directly from the previous plan to your new Gold SEP IRA.
- No withholding for taxes so your full balance transfers.
In an indirect rollover:
- You receive only a portion of your assets.
- You have 60 days to deposit the funds into your Gold IRA to avoid taxes and penalties.
- You have to claim the remaining funds in your next tax filing.
Step 4: Purchase Your IRS-Approved Precious Metal
Once your initial deposit is received, you can select the gold products to add to your Gold SEP IRA. As mentioned earlier, options include coins, bars, and rounds.
Any product that meets IRS guidelines qualifies for inclusion in your portfolio. Consider factors like desired liquidity — coins tend to be more liquid than bars — and current promotions or discounts offered by the gold dealer when making your purchase.
Some providers offer free shipping for orders above a minimum value. It makes sense to wait until sufficient funds are available in your account to take advantage of this threshold and save on shipping costs.
When purchasing precious metals for your Gold SEP IRA:
- Review products from the provider’s inventory to ensure they meet the IRS’s purity standards.
- Compare options based on your liquidity preferences.
- Consider product features like weight, design, and storage accommodations.
- Check for any special offers or promotions that may reduce the final cost.
- Combine orders to qualify for free shipping if available.
Once you’ve selected the eligible gold products you will add to the Gold SEP IRA, your custodian will process the order on your behalf and arrange their shipping with the appointed depository. The new holdings will be added to your account records once they are received.
Step 5: Store Metals at an Approved Depository
The IRS mandates that precious metals held in a Gold SEP IRA must be stored with an approved depository. This secure facility follows reporting, recordkeeping, and other procedures that comply with the agency’s guidelines.
All precious metals purchased for your Gold IRA are shipped to your appointed depository. Transit times vary from 1 to 7 days. Shipments are insured, and contents are concealed by using specialized packaging to avoid theft.
Depository services typically offer:
- Secure vault storage of gold, silver, and other metals.
- Insurance coverage for stored assets.
- Periodic audits to ensure their inventory match all account records.
- Reports for tax and accounting purposes.
- Ability to take physical delivery of metals if desired.
When choosing a depository, you may want to consider its reputation, years of experience, the safeness of its premises, insurance coverage, recordkeeping and reporting systems, and all applicable fees for accessing its services.
Work with your custodian to select an IRS-approved depository that you feel comfortable with. The depository’s role is critical to maintaining the tax advantages of your Gold SEP IRA.
With a Gold SEP IRA, self-employed individuals and small business owners can access tax-advantaged retirement solutions that can help them set aside money for this crucial stage of life.
The money within these accounts grows tax-free, contributions are tax-deductible, and precious metals can be added to the portfolio to further diversify the investor’s holdings. The providers reviewed in this article can help you shortlist your candidates to make things easier and you can follow our step-by-step guides to quickly complete the process of opening and funding a Gold SEP IRA.
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Alejandro is a financial writer with 7 years of experience in financial management and financial analysis. He writes technical content about economics, finance, investments, and real estate and has also assisted financial businesses in building their digital marketing strategy. His favorite topics are value investing and financial analysis.