In recent weeks we've mentioned various schemes to use high-value bullion coins with low nominal face values to skirt tax laws. The latest scheme in the news involves the "Silver Philharmonic" coin from Austria. -Editor Hot tip for German investors: an Austrian silver coin that can be smuggled legally. It's music to the ears of Germans who bank in Austria. But how long can the party last?
The object of desire is 37 millimetres in diameter and made of .999 fine silver. On one side, the coin shows an organ, its country of origin ("The Republic of Austria") and its face value: €1.50 ($2.12). On the flipside: "Vienna Philharmonic Silver" and a few musical instruments from the world famous orchestra.
The coin, known to numismatics as the "Silver Philharmonic," could well drive Germany's already harassed Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück over the edge. Because the ounce of silver is a hot tip among German investors -- and a means of discretely transferring untaxed funds back home.
The story of its success has to do with a funny little contradiction: As a means of payment with a value of €1.50, the coin can be used to buy a beer. But nobody in his right mind will take it to the pub in the first place because the exclusive silver piece is worth -- depending on the price of silver --somewhere between €11 ($16) and €14 ($20), and costs that much at the teller's window.
It's this difference between the face and market values of the coin that makes it so attractive in the context of international money transfers. The coin manages -- astonishingly -- to circumvent currency import regulations. A person travelling from Austria to Germany is allowed to bring €10,000 ($14,000) into the country without having to declare it at customs. So that person can bring more than 6,000 Philharmonic coins over the border and in doing so, bring home, with each trip, more than €110,000 ($156,000) of his hidden Austrian treasure.
To read the complete article, see: A New Austrian Coin Trick (http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,633772,00.html)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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