India’s gold duty policy subsidizes foreign gold producers and private industry

Gold Watch July 2014Profits for privately-owned refineries and the world’s biggest international gold mining companies could be boosted by up to $US 684 million per annum* as a result of India’s current duty differential between refined gold and unrefined gold doré.

While the Indian Treasury may forego billions of dollars in revenue, international gold miners and privately-owned refineries stand to benefit from the current duty differential. Under the current duty regime, the Indian Government is losing approximately (INR 5.6 billion) in revenue for every 100 tonnes of doré gold refined in the country.

Analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers reveals the existing 2.06% duty differential between the level of import customs duty paid on refined gold versus the level paid on unrefined gold has the potential to cost the Treasury USD 3 billion (INR 180 billion) in foregone duty revenue over a five year period. Currently, the import duty on refined gold is 10.3% while the import duty on unrefined or doré gold is 8.24%.

At a gold price of approximately USD 1250/ounce (INR 2 416 per gram) this 2.06% differential represents a margin of approximately USD 25/ounce. Global refining rates are approximately USD 2/ounce and transportation costs USD 1/ounce, so the US 25/ounce subsidy enables refineries to offer major international gold mining companies free refining and free transport while retaining a significant profit margin.

This represents potential additional annual profit of up to $80 million per annum and over a five year period these savings could boost major international gold mining company profits by up to $US 400 million. The potential windfall profit to the international gold mining company is based on India importing all of its annual gold imports as gold doré from major gold mines and local refineries offering free refining and transport services.

In 2013, India imported 825 tonnes of gold. Large gold producers will likely only supply their bulk unrefined gold to LBMA-accredited refineries. As India’s only LBMA-accredited refinery is majority foreign owned, a significant portion of the additional profits derived as a result of the duty differential may not be injected back into the Indian economy.

Had the average gold spot price been USD 1,250/oz in 2013, Indian refineries could have retained up to an additional USD 603.4 million as a result of the current duty differential on 825 tonnes.

*Analysis by PwC