The Industry Council for Tangible Assets (ICTA) issued an alert warning that a provision on the House of Representatives’s tax plan has the potential to hurt the numismatic industry and asked its members to contact their representatives to let them know of the issue.
Like many legislative actions, the bill was probably not targeted at the numismatic industry but at others where alleged abuses have allowed some to avoid paying taxes or reducing their tax burden. Some suggest that it is aimed at the burgeoning crypto-currency or Bitcoin economy.
In a bill that is supposed to be business-friendly, under Title III, Subtitle D (Reform of Business-Related Exclusions, Deductions, Etc.), Section. 3303 (Like-Kind Exchanges of Real Property) has an innocuous statement that says:
Section 1301(a)(1) refers to 26 U.S.C. §1301(a)(1) that currently says:
In plain English, this is the basis of the bartering economy. If I trade goods and services for goods and services, they are assumed to be a trade of even value and no taxes are paid on the transaction. The new bill (H.R. 1) will tax the barter economy.
In numismatic terms, a collector walks into to a coin shop with 10 Mercury dimes graded by one of the third-party grading services worth about $475 on the retail market. While talking to a dealer you see a nice 1928 Peace Dollar that he has marked $460 rather than selling the Mercury dimes for cash, you work out a trade with the dealer for the Peace Dollar. You make the trade and everyone is happy.
Under the current tax law, that is a “like kind” trade of items of value and not taxed as income.
If the bill that just passed the House is enacted, the dealer will be required to pay a tax on that that transaction.
The amount of the tax will be based on an interpretation of the law by the IRS which is where this could get very tricky.
If the dealer is taxed on the retail value of the trade, the dealer could be taxed on $15 of income if based on the dealer’s valuation of the transaction.
If the IRS requires the dealer to make a valuation based on prevailing market values, who sets those market values? Can the dealer use any price guide to determine the value of the coins? For example, if a price guide determines the Mercury dimes are worth $475 on the retail market as we assumed earlier, but the Peace dollar is worth $450 on one price guide but $480 on another, which guide does the dealer use? The dealer will either make $25 on the transaction, which is subject to taxation or lose $5 that will lower the dealer’s overall tax liability.
But the dealer does not buy at retail valuation. The cost of the inventory would be based on market values of the coins. Does the IRS allow the dealer to base the transaction on the “buy” cost of the coins? Based on the “buy” valuation the transaction may be closer to break-even.
The result will be more bookkeeping for the dealer and a tougher set of accounting rules when managing inventory. Managing inventory for a coin dealer is not like a regular retail store. Each coin is its only item and may be given its own identification (stock keeping unit, or SKU).
Most coin dealers are small businesses that are either sole proprietors or have a few employees. They either work at coin shows or have a few thousand square feet of retail space. Some are family operated business while others hire from the local community. Dealers make a living but it may not be enough to support the necessary change to their inventory management under the new tax law.
Eventually, this will make you, the collector, the loser.
First, it will eliminate the possibility of a trading because of the accounting problems. The dealer who has the Peace dollar in inventory that is not selling but can trade it for Mercury dimes that will sell quicker will not be able to happen. Of course, the dealer could buy the Mercury dimes for the same price as you buy the Peace dollars. The dealer could also be accused of a tax avoidance scheme which will make matters worse. Even if the accusation is not true, the IRS is notorious for treating these cases as “guilty until proven innocent.”
This can also drive dealers out of business.
If this drives small dealers out of business, then there will be no dealers to participate in local, small coin shows. With no dealers, those shows will end and so will your access to dealers to help you with your collection. With no smaller shows, you will have to travel further to find shows or will have lesser access to quality collectibles. Sure, you can purchase coins and currency online, but who will be there to answer questions? What happens if you are not happy with the purchase and you have to ship the coin back to the seller?
Ironically, the change proposed in H.R. 1 strengthens the trading of real estate and real property as “like kind” transaction.
This change in the tax law is not good for small business or the numismatic industry. Please contact your member of the House and Senators to let them know that the side effects of Title III Section 3303 will hurt the hobby we love!
If you do not know your member of Congress, you can call the Capitol switchboard operator at (202) 224-3121. They can transfer you to the appropriate representative.
If you are not sure what to say to the staffer who answers the phone, try the following:
Please call! Make your voice heard!