Billionaire investor Howard Marks compares gold’s value to a ‘superstition’ and criticizes taxes on unrealized gains

Howard Marks

  • Howard Marks expressed skepticism about gold and taxes on unrealized gains this week.
  • Gold’s value is “almost like a superstition,” the billionaire investor told CNBC.
  • The Oaktree Capital boss said taxes on unrealized gains are impractical and could deter investing.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Billionaire investor Howard Marks questioned gold’s worth and criticized the idea of taxing investors’ unrealized gains in a CNBC interview this week.

The Oaktree Capital Management cofounder said the yellow metal’s value is “almost like a superstition,” as it depends on people believing it’s worth something.

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Marks’ comments echo those of another billionaire investor, Warren Buffett. The Berkshire Hathaway boss has pointed out many times that gold isn’t reproductive or particularly useful, its holders often incur insurance, storage, and security costs, it’s pricey relative to productive assets such as farms and businesses, and it has drastically underperformed stocks over the years.

The Oaktree boss also weighed in on Janet Yellen – President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for Treasury secretary – saying she would consider taxing investors’ unrealized gains during her confirmation hearing this week.

“That would hit sentiment,” Marks told CNBC. “It would obviously make it less attractive to be an investor, all things being equal.”

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Currently, US investors incur taxes on their capital gains when they sell an asset and realize their profits on it. The policy discourages them from cashing out and incentivizes them to invest for the long term.

Taxing their gains before they’re realized is “not a great idea,” Marks said.

“I don’t think it’s a practical plan and I don’t know how you go out and tax everybody’s assets every year at what is supposed to be their market value,” he said. “What happens if you have a down year? You get a refund?”