Tax My Money, Please!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eric Schoenberg, a behavioral economist at Columbia University’s Business School and a member of the UFE's Responsible Wealth Network, says the wealthy (he's one of them) should pay more taxes and donates his share of the "Bush tax cut" to the cause.

How much does the UFE suggest you're underpaying?  Use their Responsible Tax Cut calculator here!

Do you think your income taxes are fair this year? Let us know!

Comments [61]

Robin of Lox & Bagelsley from Westport, CT

2 wonderful tax oddities: 1. if you rent out your home for just 2 weeks or less, you don't have to even report the income, let alone pay taxes on it (this is designed for rich folks who own second homes on PGA tour golf courses, but anyone can do it) 2. for Scientologists, unlike everyone else studying for the ministry or whatever, their tuition, etc., is 100% tax deductible. Wild, huh?
Also: a flat Social Security and Medicare tax on all income would allow us to lower the top rate from 39% to 19.99% (as in, "Party Like It's-") and collect exactly the same revenue.

Apr. 15 2010 08:46 PM
Ailene Rogers from Centerport, NY

No. I don't think my taxes were fair this year. In 2008 when I reached 70 years old and retired based on an experience with a stroke my adjusted gross income was 14,800K in 2009 it was 142,000K. The difference is that I took money out of my retirement fund ( had taught for 27 years in independent schools) in order to build a house in Maine near family ( brother and sister) and to take advantage of the tax break for first time home buyers. I also worked for 1 other years -- all in education related fields so my Social Security is pretty good) My husband was killed in a car accident in 1998 when I was just diagnosed with cancer. two years after his death I left the Washingtonton DC area where I had been living and came to Centerport Long Island to live with a friend in my old home town. I cannot afford to buy on Long Island on my own so my family suggested that I buy land and build a house in Maine. So I bought a piece of land near my sister's family and decided to build and complete a home when the tax incentives came through. The problem is that I have terrible tax levels for 2009 and further I do not qualify for the $8000 tax incentive because my income was too high for a single person ( from taking money from my retirement fund). It is a big dilemma for me. Further I had to take more money out of my TIAA CREF retirement fund in 2010 in order to pay my tax penalty.

Now my retirement fund is not looking so hot and my tax penalties are horrendous for someone of my means.

I finally went for professional help which suggests that I refile for 2008 income tax for the house which was in process then and get credit that year which can be carried over into 2009.
I hope this will work.

Incidentally I have paid three different independent financial advisors all highly recommended for advice as to how to handle my resources. None of them gave me concrete help. I decided to put all my funds into TIAA CREF because I felt they were at least honest. But frankly I have no notion of how to handle my finances. I always worked for a living and never was tax delinqent nor debt ridden. I have a disabled daughter whom I am concerned about and two other living children (able married with children). One son died at age 23.

Apr. 15 2010 11:27 AM
Maggie from New York

Libertarians are simply emotionally retarded. They have an adolescent mentality that wants all the benefits that government provides but don't want to pay for it. They worship the distant father (corporate America) and blame the ever present mother (government), even though all the neighbours can see he's a deadbeat dad, and that's why mom has to pawn the jewels. Of course it doesn't help that mom is an enabler. BTW most innovation comes from R&D, and in this country thats mostly from government funded universities.

Apr. 15 2010 11:01 AM
Dr, Andrew R. Conn from Mount Vernon, NY

Our taxes should be much simpler and much less regressive. I earn over 250000. I would get rid of the AMT (which is so difficult to understand and unknot its effects) and have a simple graduate tax on ALL income earned. Also school quality should not be directly related to the wealth of the local community...ideally it would come out of national taxes but at least let us have it uniform in a state.
We have mandated car insurance, mandated school taxes so why all the fuss about mandated health insurance (although I would prefer a public option)

Apr. 15 2010 11:01 AM
PdK from Brooklyn

I'm curious why, with all the attention paid to big Wall Street bonuses, no one seems to talk about the most outrageous tax scheme: hedge fund managers' income--which looks and smells every bit like ordinary income, taxed at rates up to 35%--is taxed at capital gains rates (15%). In 2007, Congress tried to capture about $7 billion for the Treasury by closing the loophole. Sen. Schumer practically single-handedly beat back the effort. More interestingly, candidate Obama was in favor, while President Obama, who denounces banker's bonuses at every turn, has said been completely silent about hedge fund managers' extraordinary windfall.
And, BTW, so have all the NPR and WYNC reporters.....

Apr. 15 2010 10:50 AM
emily from NYC

If Prof. Schoenberg and his friends feel they aren't paying their fair share, why are they not forwarding the amount they would have paid (without Bush's tax cuts) to the IRS? Instead, they donate the funds to a non-profit (of their choosing, of course!) The WNYC website states that Prof. Schoenberg donates his share "to the cause" - but what cause? Doesn't seem that he is truly donating this to the shared cause - namely, the IRS, for use in running this country. If I had multi-millions in various asset classes, I would be happy to donate a few million to get my family name on a concert hall, student center or gym at my alma mater. Or to support the Met., so I could attend a fancy black tie gala. However, giving this money up to the fed/state/local gov't to be used to fund wars, corruption and mismangement is another story. I would be much happier myself, to take any dollars from a tax break or deduction that I received, and donate the money to a non-profit of MY choosing, rather than give this money to the IRS. Seems to me that the truly wealthy (those that do not rely on income, but rather their accumulated wealth/assets) like to puff their progressive chests about tax fairness - but still don't see the fairness issues that concern those of us who do need that weekly paycheck to get by.

Apr. 15 2010 10:50 AM
georgina from W Village

all told we part with 55% + -- across Fed State City UBT and property taxes. ex cludg SocSec, sales tax or any of the employer taxes. We use good tax advisors and dont evade nor cheat, at least not deliberately!
But there is a clear erosion in return on this 'investment':
And its the recent small assessments that gall.--- Commuter tax, addl MTA chgs in cabs etc -- which imply that the fixed costs and overhead of these services are gigantic. It doesnt make sense.
Yet we feel fortunate, not wealthy compared to many Manhattanites, certainly quite privileged as Americans to be earning @ 200-250k (dual income) readily and sometimes much much more...and be able to share for the good of society overall. Not everyone can have a NY coop and a family cottage and afford to pay for their aged parents mortgage and taxes.
But the system lacks fairness. For ex: there are many people in NY who legally evade Fed and State taxation by declaring a foreign domicile and staying out of the USA half the time... I am subsidizing their use of OUR shared and privileged level of services.

Apr. 15 2010 10:47 AM
Keith Roberts from Manhattan

The greatest source of tax dissatisfaction, I believe, is the public's view that taxes are being misused, and money either wasted or spent improperly. The greatest fault with the tax system, aside from the complexity most responders bemoan, is the payroll tax (apart from Social Security and Medicare contributions, which are really insurance payments).

The question I would like you to ask your experts is about the justification for lower tax rates on capital gains, dividends, and interest. As I understand the conservative argument, taxing capital gains would, in their view, reduce investment. I don't understand this, since where would people put their savings otherwise? Also, as the great historian Fernand Braudel observed, since the time of the Romans the problem has not normally been a shortage of investment funds, but a shortage of places to put them. As for dividends, the argument is that these are earnings taxed twice, once at the corporate level and once at the individual level. So let there be a deduction at the corporate level, and tax dividends as ordinary income. Since the bigger corporations rarely pay taxes anyway, giving them the deduction wouldn't reduce revenues nearly as much as revenues would increase through individual taxes.

Apr. 15 2010 10:46 AM
Susan from Manhattan

The annual earning rate of 250K to determine wealth and higher taxes is simply too low. Families in this bracket, especially in Manhattan, are really borderline in terms of wealth. This may be the upper end of the middle class here, but still middle class. People in this category are not the the wealthy, unless perhaps they are single. But for a family, especially with the extra burden of private education (let's face it, our tax dollars are not working so effectively in this area) and child care, the cost of living is so high here that this is no longer a lot of money. Why not draw the line at, say, 500K? That's a clear marker of wealth. Perhaps this would be an interesting subject for your show.

Apr. 15 2010 10:45 AM
nhs from Central New Jersey

I am impressed with the well-to-do people who are convinced they should bear more of the total tax burden. Apparently others would be embarrassed to call, or you don't really have any Tea Party members in your audience!

Apr. 15 2010 10:43 AM
Dan from Manhattan

Medicare/Social Security should be funded out of general revenues and the farce of a Social Security trust fund should be ended. The 7.65% Social Security Medicare tax we currently pay against the first 107,500 of earned income should remain but be expanded to all non-corporate earned and non-earned income as a mandatory minimum income tax. Social Security would be fully funded unless they divert these funds. Oh wait, they already leave an IOU in the form of treasury security in place of the trust fundso that wouldn't be a change.

Apr. 15 2010 10:43 AM
ECohen from NYC

Remember -- the tax rate on the highest incomes was 90% during the Roosevelt administration and only lowered in the second half of the twentieth century.

Why are we (I'm included in the higher income group) complaining? Would we prefer a dysfunctional society?

Apr. 15 2010 10:41 AM
Sandy from New York

Careful, teabagger...
your words betray you. Paying the poor to stay poor? Y'know, not only black and hispanics are poor, but that's who you mention.

Apr. 15 2010 10:41 AM
carlianschwartz from Paterson, New Jersey

I have to comment on two people who phoned in earlier this morning.

The first was the lady who, with her husband, both have job, purchased a building for rental, and made improvements to the building. She claimed her taxes were HIGHER. I don't know who she hired to do her taxes, but investment properties are taxed under a separate schedule in both state and federal taxes. The improvements have to be amortized over time. The real-estate taxes are deductible for the income property. Her reluctance to disclose either her income or tax percentile make her comments suspect at best.

The woman from Hempstead is correct about real-estate taxes. But she was also not precise about the percentages of federal and state tax. What she doesn't understand she should not comment on--unless she is a propaganda plant.

I had a great income year last year, and I feel my taxes are fair. However, since my income varies greatly from year to year, and I'm self-employed, I wish the government would bring back income-averaging.

One comment on the Tea Partiers. They don't realize they're being played by the GOP. Apparently found a consulting-firm memorandum dated 2009 that showed that the Tea Party Express was organized and exploited by the GOP through one of its consulting groups as a MONEY-MAKING proposition.

None of the Tea Partiers can see the necessity of most government programs, save our "war on terror." They don't know that various government programs are required to take care of problems that are too expensive for localities or states to tackle on their own--or for charity to take care of. These people don't realize that the complexity of the tax system are an attempt to balance the various interests and give a sense of fairness to the whole: they can't see the forest for the trees. They see nothing wrong with Sarah Palin, who violated her state's trust in electing her as governor by quitting at half-term to become a "brand" and earning $12 million last year by becoming some sort of a "celebrity" by playing their ignorance and fears.

The Tea Partiers don't realize that we are a national COMMUNITY, and are too ignorant to see they are working against their own interests.

Apr. 15 2010 10:40 AM
Michael from Brooklyn

Mr Schoenberg makes it clear that one of the biggest problems with the tax issue is that the public is grossly misinformed as to how the system really works. If the average taxpayer truly understood the inequities of the current system they would think twice about the types of reforms needed. Most middle class people get their income from labor, and don't benefit from the capital gains tax scams. Once again we see how the Republicans have put their own spin on the tax issue to perpetuate the wealth and power of the few at the expense of the many. This is just more of the same codespeak that keeps the poor and minorities down while also keeping a major distance between the upper class and the hoodwinked middle class.

Apr. 15 2010 10:39 AM

we'll see i guess...

Apr. 15 2010 10:38 AM
Kitchen Philosopher from US

Current caller is calling for "uniformity." This is not necessarily fair! Taking say 12% from the well-to-do and the same from the poor would be unconscionable!

Apr. 15 2010 10:38 AM

hjs11211 -- I agree w your assessment. but happen to believe that the Euro will crash, in part because of its own hubris and hypocrisy. It doesn't "know" itself anymore (think USA year 2000).

Apr. 15 2010 10:37 AM

We are in the highest bracket and the only deductions we get are for charitable contribution and the standard deductions for our kids. Our tax burden is enormous and I think this idea that the "rich" pay taxes at a low effective rate is a myth.

Apr. 15 2010 10:33 AM
Daniel from Brooklyn

I represent a huge group of citizens that wish to be taxed more and would be happy to pay taxes on our product if it were regulated. We are the marijuana growers, sellers and consumers and we're tired of being arrested and thrown in jail so please, by all means, tax away! -Daniel in Brooklyn

Apr. 15 2010 10:32 AM
Dave from Bronxville

Deductions for charity, mortgage, etc. should be recognized at a fixed % instead of those paying at a higher tax rate getting a larger share deducted from their gross income.

Apr. 15 2010 10:31 AM
Church did

God didn't ask for ten percent, brutha.

Apr. 15 2010 10:31 AM
kay from nyc

rich people in this country need to understand that their wealth is based on hundreds of years of unfair property and labor practices -- including mass stealing of land from native americans, free labor from slaves, and the tax and inheritance laws that have only emphasized and maximized these exploitative actions.

Apr. 15 2010 10:29 AM
Ed from Larchmont

I think it's incorrect to say the rich don't pay their fair share: they pay the bulk of the taxes, from the figures I've seen.

Apr. 15 2010 10:28 AM

europeans live longer, have a better quality of life and their kids do better on tests than our's do. are u sure they have anything wrong??

Apr. 15 2010 10:28 AM
sylvia from new jersey

I think the real question is not only about fairness but about the poor utilization and ineffectiveness of the way in which our money is used. If programs and services operated at a level of excellence that is indicated by the amount of money we all put into the state and federal governments, the money would be well spent. But to have our money spent on paying the salaries of congress and to read about the enormous salaries and benefits for other state and local officials who behave like out of control children is the most maddening dimension of this argument for me.
I think we need to help those who are not able to help themselves. I think we need to educate our children - the next generation and I would really like to see our elected officials begin to earn their money by acting like statesmen and women and doing what is best for "all the people" all the time. If we did this, then maybe we wouldn't be so angry about all the money that's being spent.

Apr. 15 2010 10:27 AM
Trish from Westchester

I feel that as long as "you get what you pay for" I don't mind paying high taxes. I pay a TON of taxes -- most state and local, federal not too bad. I calculated out at about 35% all in. I am happy to pay over 18K for school taxes since my public schools are awesome. I am happy to pay my local taxes b/c our municipal services are awesome. I'm conflicted about federal taxes because I feel like so much is going to pay for wars, but in general, I'm OK paying them. We all pool our money to get what we otherwise couldn't pay for separately.

Apr. 15 2010 10:27 AM
Scott from Jersey City, NJ

Brian we really should get an objective assessment of tax as an institution of modern governments. Answer me this: Is a man not entitled to the sweat on his brow? "No" says the man in Washington, it belongs to the poor. "No" say the man in the Kremlin, it belongs to the people. "No" says the man in the Vatican, it belongs to God.

Wait sorry, that's not objective, that's objectivism. But I chose the alternative, I chose the impossible, I chose rapture!

Apr. 15 2010 10:26 AM
Stooge from Harlem

I'm from Australia originally. They have an annual "Great Debate" each year on TV with a mix of comedians and politicians down there which is all tongue in cheek and good for a laugh. Anyway one year they had the Finance Minister from one of the state governments and he got up an outlined how he had thought long and hard about how to get people to willingly pay more tax. And in a flash of inspiration he had solved it - tax sex. The more you have the more you pay. The genius of the the whole system though was that the government would publish in the paper each year how much tax each person pays. Sorry - a bit off topic.

Apr. 15 2010 10:25 AM
Rosalie from Astoria

Wealthy americans wanting to pay MORE taxes? Do they trust the government with their money that much? In my opinion there is so much government waste and misuse (military spending) that if I was in their shoes, I would give it to charities and organizations that directly impact people in need.

Apr. 15 2010 10:24 AM
JB from Lower East Side

Please raise taxes on the wealthy! "The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities." - Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations

Apr. 15 2010 10:23 AM

re changing the tax system:

the europeans have much wrong in terms of their economic thinking -- but when I first learned of VAT, its civility, sense of fairness, and correctness of incentives, took my breath away.

Apr. 15 2010 10:23 AM

My husband and I discovered the wonderful "marriage penalty" this year. Last year, when we were both still single, he paid about $3000 in total, while I got a few hundred dollars refund. This year, we got married and filed jointly, and we got killed, paying nearly $10,000 in taxes (which we really can't afford, and have to make some serious decisions in order to pay). We have the same jobs and income as we did last year, but this year, our accountant explained, we moved into a higher rate because our income is combined and the tax code was written way back in the dark ages when women didn't work. It doesn't reflect the realities of modern marriages and costs of living. In addition, we had problems because I have several part-time jobs (I'm an adjunct professor because full time teaching jobs are hard to come by), and even though my overall income is not that high, each individual job isn't high enough to be taxed correctly. This wasn't a big deal when I was single, but now that my income is combined with my husband's, we have to pay so much more tax. I don't mind paying tax for services, but something has to be done about the tax codes. My husband and I are actually considering having me quit my jobs to reduce our income and lower our tax bill, because we calculated that most of my income is going to pay the tax bill, making the hours I put into teaching not worth it.

Apr. 15 2010 10:22 AM
Janelle from Queens

Get this guest off the air. He may want to pay more taxes, but I see way too much waste to be continually pick-pocketed at an ever higher rate.

Apr. 15 2010 10:22 AM
senga6 from Brooklyn, NY

According to my accountant, the first caller is quite right. Above a certain income, you cannot claim expenses on a rental property. You can only add them up and them claim them when you sell.

As a middle-class person, I don't think we pay too much taxes. Those taxes pay for the support of our government for so many necessary programs and agencies. One day I may need to take advantage of one of those programs, and I sure won't be complaining about taxes then!

Apr. 15 2010 10:22 AM
Tom from UWS

It should not go unspoken that those who have the highest "rate" seldom pay that rate. Deductions in the tax code favor those with means.

Apr. 15 2010 10:22 AM

Henry George

Apr. 15 2010 10:21 AM
S. Simon

My husband and I are retired and I believe we pay too little tax. I teach at a community college part time and I watch those students struggle to get an education while often raising a family . Many have no medical coverage. I believe we all need to be more compassionate to those less fortunate than ourselves.

Apr. 15 2010 10:20 AM
Betty Anne from UES

It's great to give away these "Bush Tax Cuts" but that money was never paid for.

What does he and his organization think about supporting more liberal candidates like Dennis Kuccinich who would push for REAL tax reform and change like single-payer healthcare.

Apr. 15 2010 10:19 AM
William Israel from Dix Hills, NY

Isn't it amazing that those who call in and are asked what their effective tax rate is cannot give a correct answer. They say: "30, 33%?"

The calculation is simple: (tax divided by taxable income) x 100% = your effective rate.

Your tax and taxable income are right there on form 1040.

Apr. 15 2010 10:19 AM

FGC....but don't u love living in fancy Montclair (where the median income for a family was $119,850)

Apr. 15 2010 10:19 AM

To bring that 47% in perspective.

Look at the IRS estimate of the 2007 tax returns.

47.2% are estimated to report 30,000 OR less in 2007.

1/3 of the Federal Budget is towards Medicare and Social Security.

That same 47% in the estimate you mention still has to pay that payroll taxes.

Of the 30,000 in income they still pay at almost $2,295.00 in payroll taxes.

Apr. 15 2010 10:19 AM

Stop belly aching or go live in Guam.

Apr. 15 2010 10:19 AM
jen from manhattan

This is a NYC-based show and there should be more attention paid to how RENTERS just get hammered with taxes. My family is in the highest bracket (no tears for us) and even with three kids there are almost no deductions.

And our taxes are going up big time next year to pay for healthcare reform.

I've never in my life complained about taxes. I'm among the most liberal of the liberal, so if I'm complaining about taxes, I can only imagine the rest of America is already fed up.

Apr. 15 2010 10:18 AM

"Martin Chuzzlewit" ... I agree it's not fair but people (and, wink wink, corporations) with professional accountants don't pay that much for tax, or much at all, as you probably well know. Much of the angel startup world, for just one example, is fueled by tax-writeoffs.

Apr. 15 2010 10:18 AM
Jon Young from US

The rental property that the caller has probably reduced any income from the rental to $0 but no lower because the $25,000 amount of losses that can be taken applies to incomes below $100,000 and phases out totally (to $0) at incomes up to $150,000.

Apr. 15 2010 10:17 AM
kay from nyc

Poor Fort Greene investment property lady who needs to get a clue! Want tax breaks for being rich enough to buy investment property and then getting tax breaks? Make too much money to get any rebates? Wow we should all go help her.

Apr. 15 2010 10:17 AM

I wish I made $250k per year, I would pay the tax. Unfair yes, but I would pay.

Apr. 15 2010 10:17 AM
RLewis from Bowery;_ylt=AkdjZrM7KCr_4Un7tpeZ2ams0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNmZm50Z2UyBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTAwNDE1L3VzX2xvd2VyX3RheGVzBGNjb2RlA21vc3Rwb3B1bGFyBGNwb3MDMwRwb3MDMTEEcHQDaG9tZV9jb2tlBHNlYwN5bl90b3Bfc3RvcnkEc2xrA3RheGRheXJoZXRvcg--

All the facts say that people are paying LESS this year!!!

Apr. 15 2010 10:17 AM
eastvillage from nyc

Why can't renters get cost of dwelling deductions, as home owners do? Why does the landlord get it all, when they often don't keep the buildings up and scam in other ways?

Apr. 15 2010 10:17 AM
Sam from Manhattan

If more callers like Valerie sent their children to their local public schools, they probably wouldn't be so bad. The flight of middle class families from public education is a self-perpetuating cycle that makes public schools worse and in turn makes middle class families less likely to send their kids to public school.

Apr. 15 2010 10:16 AM

and we should run the country how? Yes you make more you pay more so?

Apr. 15 2010 10:16 AM

Yes they are too high, unfair, always have been so?

Apr. 15 2010 10:15 AM
FGC from Montclair, NJ

Brian took my call last year: I pay the alternative minimum tax because I cannot deduct my real estate tax ($20K in NJ).
Last year I had to pay in $3.5K, this year it's $5K (same income.)
I don't complain about my taxation level. I don't like having to pay more taxes because I pay taxes.

Apr. 15 2010 10:15 AM

Caller: property tax is by the state, not Fed govt.

Apr. 15 2010 10:15 AM

We all pay taxes, so?

Apr. 15 2010 10:14 AM

1st caller -- reach into your sack of bullion and hire a real accountant!

Apr. 15 2010 10:14 AM


Cost of renovations and construction goes towards the cost of building. So when you sell the building, it's Sale Price - Cost of Building/Land - Cost of Renovations. It's peg to the sale price. Or else anyone that renovates their house will get a tax break.

Apr. 15 2010 10:12 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

More Soak The Rich nonsense.....or "you have more than I do and I'm going to take it!"

As a Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow wrote in the NY Post op-ed page yesterday (p31) taxpayers earning over $200,000 paid 54% of federal income taxes while earning 32% of the nation's income.

For New Yorkers it is even more imbalanced....that same group paid almost 67% of the state's share of federal income taxes.

It's time to stop being timid and politically correct about speaking out about wealth confiscation by the resentful and the envious.

Apr. 15 2010 10:04 AM

Would Mr. Schoenberg like the chance to bring down the U.S. gov. debt by making a, say, $25K donation -- right now? Why not start off the segment with a radio stunt!

The link: (from

The details:
Thank you for your contribution which will be deposited to the account "Gifts to Reduce the Public Debt." Your contribution is accepted under the provisions of 31 U.S.C. 3113 which authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to accept conditional gifts to the United States for the purpose of reducing the public debt. These donations are voluntary, and no goods, services, or other considerations are provided to the donors.

Apr. 15 2010 09:52 AM

the only thing stopping us from slipping into the 3rd world is modern government. we've all seen what happens when government takes a step back and lets the miracle of the market take place: enron, katrina, and mortgage-backed security. we can see the conditions in the third world states. take alabama: low taxes, no jobs, poor student performance, bad infrastructure. sure they pay low taxes but who wants to live there?
we get what we pay for. I'm glad to play taxes. I'm glad to pay for the safety net, for education, infrastructure, science and progress. I pay for the USA to be better.
but we can cut the government if we think it's good for the economy. let's start with the biggest item. the military. save money and stop the empire. stop making the world safe for corporations to buy low and sell high. stop protecting nations that disrespect us. stop playing russian roulette with poor boys who can't afford college.

we can also end "the save the great plains" corn and poisonous high-fructose corn syrup subsidies.

Apr. 15 2010 09:51 AM

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