Starting Nov. 1, an accounting and business services firm that has served the Lehigh Valley for 60 years will be going by a new name.
Concannon Miller, which has offices in Bethlehem and Florida, is merging into a larger firm, CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen LLP), which is a global network of independent accounting firms.
Concannon Miller President and CEO Ted Witman said that while it is bittersweet saying goodbye to the firm’s name, he said CLA is a well-known and respected accounting firm both across the country and globally and merging into the company will open up many opportunities.
“The name Concannon Miller has been so well known in the Lehigh Valley, but CLA has very strong name recognition throughout the country,” said Witman.
The decision to merge into a larger firm came after a great deal of deliberation.
“We’ve experienced tremendous growth in the last several years,” Witman said. “We have struggled to find the resources to meet that growth, especially for our national McDonald’s accounts.”
While Concannon Miller had never previously entertained the idea of an upwards merger, stakeholders decided that at this time, such a move could solve many of its problems.
After a search, they sought out a merger with CLA, which Witman said shared a similar culture and had the leadership they wanted and the resources they needed.
Other than the name, Witman said clients won’t see too much of a change. Concanon Miller will continue to operate out of its current office, with the Bethlehem office answering to the Plymouth Meeting CLA office and the St. Petersburg, Florida office answering to the Tampa CLA office.
Local management will stay the same. Witman’s title will change to director of operations.
Clients will be serviced by the same staff members they are now, but with CLA’s network of 120 offices in the country, the newly merged firm will be able to offer new services that it wasn’t before.
“We will be able to offer resources that Concanon Miller didn’t have,” Witman said.
Bethlehem-based accounting firm Concannon Miller has been named to Accounting Today’s 2022 Fastest Growing Firms in the U.S. for 2022.
Concannon Miller’s revenue grew 27.34% in 2021, landing the firm at no. 20 on the list.
According to the firm, its growth was largely because of increased consulting services to clients, especially related to COVID-19 tax credits and other funding. Concannon Miller also completed the strategic acquisition of Abraham, Borda, Corvino, Butz, LaValva & Co. in fall 2020.
The firm also recently won the Best of Accounting award for providing superior service, given through the third-party national consulting firm ClearlyRated.
“We are blessed with an incredible team of talented and hardworking staff; an exceptional year like this is a result of the expertise and dedication they provide to our clients each and every day,” says Ted Witman, Concannon Miller president & COO. “We also want to thank our clients – both long-term and new – for the trust they place in us to advise and improve their results.”
Concannon Miller’s team of 150 employees is led by a 17-shareholder team.
The firm has two offices, one in Bethlehem and one in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The company is the largest CPA firm headquartered in the Lehigh Valley, where it specializes in serving privately held businesses and their owners and is one of the leading providers of CPA services to McDonald’s Owners.
Bethlehem accounting firm Concannon Miller has named Jess Cyphers as a shareholder of the firm.
Cyphers is a leader in the firm’s small business niche, advising manufacturers, real estate companies, and professional services firms. He specializes in tax planning, accounting, consulting and employee benefit plan audits.
Cyphers holds a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from West Chester University and has worked in public accounting for more than 20 years. He is a board member of the Estate Planning Council of the Lehigh Valley.
He was a former shareholder at Abraham Borda, which joined with Concannon Miller in 2020.
“Jess is a highly skilled CPA and business advisor and we’re very excited for the executive experience he’ll add to our leadership team,” said Ted Witman, Concannon Miller president & COO.
Concannon Miller has worked on an evolving leadership transition plan since 2003, including the creation of strategic growth plans and comprehensive management development plans. Cyphers joins a team of 17 shareholders.
Tom Garrity had been looking to partner with a local university for a program focusing on family-owned businesses for some time. His company, Compass Point Consulting, is a business consulting group that works a great deal with family-owned businesses on such issues as succession planning and developing governance systems.
However, money was needed and the difficulties involved in creating such a program from scratch meant the idea never quite came to fruition.
So he was thrilled when he met with people from the High Center, who said the Central Pennsylvania-based business organization was interested in expanding into the Lehigh Valley, with him as a founding partner.
The High Center is run through Elizabethtown College in Lancaster County. It was started in 1995 through funding by the High Companies and other investors to help boost family-owned and privately held businesses. It offers education, peer counseling and other business-boosting services.
“There are a lot of nuances that are unique components of a family business,” said Garrity. “There’s a need for ongoing education for owners.”
He said it is a resource he knows many of his clients need.
“When it’s your business and you don’t answer to anyone, that’s were mistakes are made,” Garrity said. Having access to the peer groups that the High Center offers helps hold leaders accountable and give them positive feedback to stay on track.
While the center is based in Central Pennsylvania, Scott Burky, managing director of new markets for the High Center, said the programming will be run through partners in the Lehigh Valley, such as Compass Point, and events and meetings will be held in Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties to be close to Lehigh Valley members.
Other corporate partners in the region include Concannon Miller, Legacy Planning, Embassy Bank for the Lehigh Valley, the Yurconic insurance agency, Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba, Murphy McCormack Capital Advisors and myHR Partner.
“They all got involved because they saw the value of having a resource like the High Center in the Lehigh Valley,” Burky said.
“It’s good for our brand and who we are,” Garrity said. He believes partnering with the High Center will boost the founding business’ image in the region as a leader.
The partner will host peer groups organized by High Center facilitators that will bring together owners, CEOs and other high-level executives of family-owned and privately held companies to meet every other month to discuss business ideas and mentor one another for growth.
The High Group will also work on awareness among its membership by using tools such as best-practices surveys. It will also educate members by bringing in national speakers to talk about issues important to their work.
With COVID-19 restrictions lifting, Burky said the center does plan to host in-person events in the Lehigh Valley starting in June.
One upcoming event is a talk by author Simon Sinek, who teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people.
Membership in the nonprofit High Center costs $2,200 per year. Membership in the organization’s peer groups is $700 per person per year.
“Criteria to apply for membership starts with being a privately held or family business with revenue between $5 million and $100 million,” said Burky. “Another critical factor for members is having a learning mindset and recognizing the value of education and peer support.”
Concannon Miller & Co. has acquired an Easton accounting firm.
The Bethlehem-based accounting firm now has a total of three offices including its Bethlehem Headquarters and St. Petersburg, Florida office.
Abraham, Borda, Corvino, Butz, LaValva & Co. and its 15 shareholders will join Concannon Miller’s team of 110.
“Both firms share a commitment to exceptional client service, and this joining greatly enhances the tax, consulting and accounting services the firms provide,” said Ted Witman, Concannon Miller president & COO. “We’ve been very selective with our growth over our almost 60 year history and the experience and expertise of the CPAs at Abraham Borda fits well with our team.”
Both firms provide tax and accounting services to manufacturing, construction, restaurants, real estate, technology, professional service firms and nonprofits.
Other services offered include business valuations, bookkeeping, estate and trust preparation and expatriate tax services.
“Joining with Concannon Miller is a great asset to our clients, who will now be able to benefit from increased synergy and new service offerings such as audit and business succession planning,” said Michael Corvino, CPA, Abraham Borda’s most recent managing partner. He is now a shareholder at Concannon Miller.
Now is the time of year when companies start their tax planning, but as with just about everything, the COVID-19 pandemic has created obstacles to normal tax-planning efforts.
Issues ranging from the forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program loans to delays in 2019 tax filing will impact planning efforts for 2020 taxes.
Jane Spradlin, a shareholder with Concannon Miller Certified Public Accountants in Bethlehem, said there has been much frustration in the accounting field while awaiting decisions from the U.S. Small Business Administration on loan forgiveness for PPP loans.
The most recent SBA guideline update says borrowers who received loans of $50,000 or less from the Paycheck Protection Program will now be forgiven even if they fail to re-hire full time employee count or full time employee compensation to pre-pandemic levels.,
But she said questions still remain for many.
“Loan forgiveness – that’s the thing that’s completely up in the air and there’s no guarantee that a loan is going to be forgiven so your accountant can’t be prepared,” Spradlin said.
She expects many accountants will need to file extensions for their clients to make sure any PPP loans are forgiven.
She explained the complications.
“If the loan is forgiven prior to the tax return being filed, loan forgiveness — or cancellation of debt income — is not taxable and the expenses that were paid with the funds are not deductible under current guidance,” she said. “If the taxpayer does not receive forgiveness by the tax deadline, it would be desirable to extend the filing until there is a resolution on the loan. If the loan is not forgiven and the taxpayer is obligated to pay it back, the expenses are deductible and the loan would be treated as any other loan.”
She said many companies may also be making different decisions about year-end capital investments because of the way the pandemic and shutdown affected their business.
“If a company has had a good year, typical planning includes a review of capital expenditures,” she said. “There are favorable depreciation rules, including 100% bonus and section 179 that enable the taxpayer to ‘expense’ the cost of the equipment in the year it is placed in service.”
She said traditional tax deprecation requires the systematic write off of these costs over varying years from 3-39 years depending on the type of property purchased.
However, under the tax cuts and jobs act, certain businesses can take advantage of a change in accounting method.
Those changes include going from the accrual basis of accounting to the cash basis or vice versa — cash to accrual, changing the inventory method to write off inventory as supplies, and a change to not report inventory costs under code section 263(A).
She said a thorough analysis should be performed to determine the cost benefits of changing a company’s accounting method.
Business owners should consult with their tax adviser regarding the changes as they apply to certain taxpayers based on average gross revenue amounts.
Other year-end planning issues have to do with employee compensation. She said this is generally the time to determine profit sharing contributions to 401(k) plans. Company contributions are deductible expenses and can be accrued — expensed in the current year — provided the payments are made to the plan by the date the company tax return is filed.
Employee bonuses reduce taxable income as well.
One thing she has advised companies not to do, however, is take advantage of the federal executive order that allows individuals to temporarily not pay their payroll tax that is their portion of Social Security taxes.
“It will create a lot of problems for employers,” she said.
She noted that it’s a deferment, not an elimination of the tax and it will be due next year. That could create liability issues for the employer that withheld that tax for the employee.
“What if your employee can’t pay that back next year? What if an employee leaves? Who becomes liable for that employee’s portion of the tax that the employer withheld on their behalf?” she asked.
She noted that individuals have things to think about as well.
Individual tax planning includes charitable contributions, IRA contributions and deferral of the 2020 required minimum distributions for those that fall under those requirements.
That deferral, she said, might be advantageous since individuals don’t have to take out a minimum amount of money from their IRA at a time when the account may be depleted because of the financial crisis that resulted from the pandemic.
Spradlin said tax preparation might be different this year, but it will be different in unique ways for everyone.
While some businesses and individuals will have to cope with excessive losses this year, some industries did quite well.
She recommends careful planning this year with all of the changes COVID-19 has brought to tax issues.
Hanover Township, Northampton County-based Concannon Miller named Lainie Smith tax manager. She will be assisting with the firm’s research efforts on the new COVID-19 tax relief measures. She has more than 20 years of experience with complex business and individual tax matters and tax research. She is a certified public accountant, has a bachelor’s degree from Villanova University and a master’s degree from Northeastern University.
Dacey Keller was named human resources manager. She also an adjunct professor at Penn State Lehigh Valley, teaching human resources courses. She has a bachelor’s degree from DeSales University and a certificate from Penn State Lehigh Valley.
The Department of Treasury has released the first information on the SBA loan program related to the CARES Act.
We understand from SBA lenders that there is still a lot of work to do and guidance needed from the Treasury Department.
On our end, we are actively monitoring, meeting and reviewing all of this information and commit to being ready to advise and guide you through this process.
What is PPP?
One of the provisions of the 2020 CARES Act is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) where businesses will receive loans meant to help support payroll during the period February 15, through June 30, with 100% federally guaranteed loans, if they maintain their payroll during this emergency.
If the employer maintains its payroll, then the portion of the loan used during the covered period for eligible payroll costs, interest on mortgage obligations, rent, and utilities would be potentially forgiven on a tax-free basis.
You should be if you are an employer with fewer than 500 employees.
What do we know now?
The Department of Treasury is working on regulations and just yesterday released the application and some supplemental information – It can be found here. While this is the application provided by the SBA, keep in mind that some of the lenders may use/require a different format (e-forms, etc).
Additional regulations and guidance are expected later this week.
Treasury released the application this afternoon – you can access it here. Applications cannot be submitted prior to Friday.
Lenders are working vigorously with the SBA to be ready to administer these loans for you, but they do not have all the guidance just yet.
What can you be doing right now to prepare?
Contact your lenderto let them know that you will be applying for this loan and find out what they recommend as current next steps.
Open a bank accountinto which you will deposit these loan proceeds once the loan is funded; this will keep the funds segregated from general operating funds, and from this account you will pay only eligible costs.
Begin gathering the following information in preparation for the application process – please note that the list of necessary documents is NOT yet known, and as such, this list is subject to change.
Articles of organization/incorporation for all business entities
2019 State unemployment tax return (all quarters) from your payroll company
2019 Payroll summary and listing of employees who earned more than $100,000
2019 Form W-3 from your payroll company
2019 Forms 940 and 941 (all quarters) from your payroll company
Cost of health insurance premiums for 2019
Cost of employer contributions to retirement plans in 2019
You may also want to have a current personal financial statement and your last three years business tax returns ready.
Jane Spradlin, CPA, is a shareholder at Concannon Miller, a CPA and business consulting firm in Hanover Township, Northampton County. She can be reached at [email protected]
Just in time to avoid a government shutdown, the federal government this week approved new spending bills that extend and change some important tax benefits for both businesses and individuals.
Here’s a look at some of the key changes from the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020. These will go into effect right around the two year anniversary of the passage of the sweeping Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017.
Affordable Care Act Taxes: The spending bills scrapped key taxes that help fund the Affordable Care Act including excise taxes on high cost employer-sponsored health coverage (also known as “Cadillac Plans”) and taxes on medical devices.
Work Opportunity Tax Credits: The bills extend WOTC through year end 2020. The maximum credits range from $2,400 for the general target groups all the way to $10,000 for certain qualified veterans and Welfare-to-Work employees. You can learn more about the credit here.
Empowerment Zones/Indian Employment Credit: The bills also extend through year end 2020 both the Empowerment Zone tax credits and the accelerated depreciation afforded to businesses on Indian reservations. Read more about Empowerment Zones here.
Alcohol Excise Taxes: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced several taxes on brewers, vintners and distillers. They were set to expire Dec. 31, 2019 but the new bills extend them another year. Learn more about the benefits here.
New Market Tax Credits: The bills extended the New Market Tax Credits program, intended to spur investment in economically depressed areas, through Dec. 31, 2020.
Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Fixes: The bills include several fixes to the TCJA, including changes to the so-called kiddie tax and church parking tax.
Church Parking Tax: This is an important change for nonprofits. The bills eliminate the so-called “church parking tax,” an unintended consequence of the TCJA’s attempt to treat employee fringe benefits of C Corporations and tax-exempt entities in the same manner. The unintended effect had required church and some other nonprofit employees to pay tax on reserved parking spaces.
Kiddie Tax: The application of the estates and trusts tax rate to certain unearned income of children – the so-called “kiddie tax” – has been reverted to the prior use of the parents’ tax rate for tax years beginning after 2019. The change had had the unintended consequence of increasing the tax on the unearned income – such as military death benefits – of children in low-income families.
Retail Glitch: The bills, unfortunately, do not fix the so-called retail glitch that impacts McDonald’s Owner/Operators. The TCJA left leasehold improvement property outside of the category of 15-year recovery property for depreciation purposes, keeping it in the 39-year recovery category and therefore not eligible for 100% bonus depreciation.
Medical Expenses Deduction: The TCJA allowed taxpayers to deduct qualifying medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of their 2018 adjusted gross income. The threshold increased to 10% in 2019 but the bills now keep it at the 7.5% level for 2019 and 2020.
Tuition and Fees Deduction: This deduction, which expired as the end of 2017, has been extended through year end 2020. It allows parents who have a child in college to deduct up to $4,000 a year in higher-education tuition costs and other expenses.
Mortgage Insurance Premium Deduction: The bills extend the deduction for the cost of premium mortgage insurance (PMI) for homes and vacation homes. The provision had expired but was renewed retroactively for 2017 and extended to 2020.
Retirement Plan Changes: The SECURE Act of 2019 includes major changes for 401(k) plans and IRAs including:
Increasing the age after which required minimum distributions from certain retirement accounts must occur from 70½ to 72.
Ending the 70½ age limit for contributions to an IRA
Allowing distributions for a qualified birth or adoption that are exempt from the early-withdrawal penalty
Tax incentives meant to encourage auto-enrollment in qualified retirement plans
These are just some of the changes in the 1,700-page bill. Please contact us to learn more or with any questions you have on the changed and extended tax benefits.
Andrew Desiderio, CPA, is a senior manager at Concannon Miller, a CPA and business consulting firm in Hanover Township, Northampton County. He can be reached at [email protected]
On a regular basis, the e-commerce director at a Pennsylvania manufacturer used PayPal, as well as other digital and person-to person payment systems to buy equipment and services on behalf of the company.
The convenience of clicking a few buttons – instead of cutting physical checks or going through the hassle of a wire transfer – offered speed and convenience.
There was only one problem: many of the transactions were bogus, and over a two-year period the director funneled about $170,000 into his own bank accounts, according to Jeremy L. Witmer, a senior consultant in the business consulting services group at the professional services firm RKL LLP, which has offices across Central Pennsylvania.
There was “almost no oversight of the e-comm director,” according to Witmer. “His acts weren’t discovered until the company did a budget-to-actual review and found that more than $60,000 was paid to a web developer but never budgeted. The CFO asked for documentation, and realized the paperwork was faked. At that point we were called in.”
The firm worked with the State Police on the case, and the (soon-former) e-commerce director pleaded guilty, served time and had to make restitution.
“One of the reasons he was able to get away with this for so long was that the company didn’t have a procedure to verify and approve new vendors,” added Witmer.
The problem of fraud is a big one, according to a February posting from the information technology company IBM. “Online payment fraud losses from e-commerce, airline ticketing, and money transfer and banking services are expected to reach $48 billion by 2023, more than double the $22 billion in losses estimated for 2018,” noted the report, citing data from Juniper Research. “With the global rise in instant payment schemes, specifically new P2P payments methods, Juniper Research forecasts fraud losses for money transfers increasing by over 20 percent per annum to $10 billion in 2023.”
“We want to live in frictionless, one-click world, but that can bring its own problems,” said Jonathan T. Marks, a partner at the advisory, tax and assurance firm Baker Tilly and member of the forensic team. “When your bank account is linked to an outside payment provider, you need to be aware of what’s going on, and constantly monitor your transactions. Many people don’t bother to set up account alerts [which signal them about a variety of issues, including a transfer of funds above a certain dollar amount]. Even when merchants and individuals utilize two-factor authentication and other safeguards, that only helps to guard against — but won’t necessarily completely prevent — fraud.”
Financial institutions are also doing their part, he added. “If I use my credit card to buy gas in my hometown, and 60 seconds later my ‘card’ is charged for thousands of dollars of purchases in, say, Chicago, my bank may freeze the account. So that’s part of the solution, but there’s no single one-size-fits-all answer. You have to tailor a solution to fit each business and every transaction, because fraudsters are persistent and creative.”
No safety net
Nothing is 100 percent safe, according to Scott Groner, business technologist at the CPA and business consulting firm Concannon Miller in Hanover Township, Northampton County, but businesses and consumers alike can take some precautions, even if they involve tradeoffs.
“Merchants should try to know their customers,” he said. “When possible, request some form of valid identification, even though this may defeat the ease of digital transactions.”
He also has some advice for consumers when it comes to digital wallets, which can let them make in-store purchases by swiping their smartphones or other devices, instead of having to dig out a physical credit card.
“The beauty of using a digital wallet is that it’s not vulnerable to ‘skimmers’ [fraud devices attached to ATMs and other inputs that can swipe credit and debit card information], the way a physical card may be,” he said.
“But beware of using your mobile device on public wi-fi connections, since hackers may then be able to access your digital data,” he added. “Also, set your smartphone to lock after a certain period of time, so if you lose it, a hacker will have a tougher time getting into it. Finally, merchants and consumers alike should check their credit card and other account statements on a frequent basis to try to spot suspicious activity.”
Like freedom, the price of online financial security is eternal vigilance.
State lawmakers are pushing to expand a program giving tax breaks to companies that donate to nonprofit educational and scholarship organizations, including private schools.
But the governor is pushing back. This month he vetoed a bill that would have expanded the popular program, known as the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, arguing that the state couldn’t afford the loss of revenue when it was struggling to fund the basics for public school education.
The bill would have expanded the amount of credits per year from $110 million to $210 million, and usher in future increases. Gov. Tom Wolf estimated that the bill would have cost the state $650 million over the next five years.
Loss for a ‘win-win’
Many Pennsylvania companies tap into the tax-credit program, often known by the acronym EITC. It was enacted under former Gov. Tom Ridge.
Under the program, companies donate to nonprofit programs that provide scholarships or to educational improvement organizations, which include private and parochial schools.
Businesses apply for credits, which reduce their state taxes, and the applications are approved as they come in until the limit is reached. That means not all applications are approved.
A business can donate up to $750,000 per year under the program – but only if there are enough credits available.
Still, supporters call the program a “win-win” for corporate donors and the recipients of their donations, and say they hope elected officials can reach a compromise so the program can grow.
Kevin Schmidt, president and CEO of Neffs National Bank in North Whitehall Township, said donations made through the EITC program can help pick up where public education falls short.
“A lot of things just aren’t getting funded by the state budget,” he said. “There are educational foundations out there that are looking for additional funding.”
While there are nuances to how the tax-credit program works, the most common application is for a two-year commitment to donate to a program.
At that level a company get a 90 percent tax credit on the value its donation.
New Tripoli Bank, for example, has made two-year commitments to make $100,000 annual contributions to the Northwestern Lehigh Educational Foundation for the past 10 years.
“The foundation comes to us with ideas and projects outside the normal district programing,” said David Hunsicker, CEO of New Tripoli Bank in New Tripoli.
One recent projects involved buying computers and establishing an IT lab for the school district.
The bank, in turn, earns a $90,000 tax credit on its state tax bill.
So there is an advantage to a business, but at the same time Hunsicker noted, the $100,000 donation represents money the school district didn’t have to find in its own budget.
“I think any dollar you spend on education is well spent,” he said.
The role of the tax credit in spurring donations is unclear.
Anthony Deutsch, a CPA and shareholder at Concannon Miller in Bethlehem, said he was unsure how many businesses would forgo education-related donations in the absence of the tax credit.
Some might still give, while others may give to different charities or to charities in states with more generous incentives.
Regardless, he said, it also boosts the efforts of companies that already are giving.
“It does give us a bigger bang for our buck when we’re donating to these organizations,” Deutsch said.
Nonetheless, he said, the bang is not quite as big as it used to be as a result of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The law changed the way companies can claim donations.
Under previous law, Deutsch said, a company making a $10,000 donation would get a $9,000 credit on its Pennsylvania taxes, but it could claim the entire $10,000 as a charitable donation deduction on its federal return.
Now on its federal return, a company can only claim the $1,000 it didn’t get as a Pennsylvania deduction.
Still, even without the added federal benefit, Deutsch said most of his clients who had been participating in the EITC program have continued to do so.
But, he said the program benefits businesses and an expansion would allow more businesses to participate.
Deutsch believes there are enough companies and educational organizations interested in the program to justify an increase.
Hunsicker said New Tripoli Bank is looking at expanding its participation in the EITC program. It has opened a branch in the East Penn School District and would like to make donations there like it has done in Northwestern Lehigh.
The fate of the proposed expansion could be decided during negotiations over a budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. The legislature does not have a two-thirds majority to override Wolf’s veto so it would have to work with the governor to get a bill signed.
Two of Wolf’s main sticking points – besides the cost of the program – were the income limits on scholarship recipients and the program’s accountability.
The bill would have raised the household income limit for scholarship recipients from $85,000 to $95,000. Wolf said that would further distance the program from the low-income children for whom it was designed.
He said he also wants more information provided to the state on where the money is going and the outcomes.
“The EITC lacks proper accountability and oversight, and little is known about the educational outcomes of students participating in the program due to a reporting loophole in the current law,” Wolf said in a statement accompanying his veto. “Even less is known about the scholarship organizations that retain up to 20 percent of each dollar that is supposed to pass through them.”
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