Divorce—a word that can send a shiver down anyone’s spine. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, a whirlwind of paperwork, and a journey that can leave your head spinning. But amidst all the chaos, there’s one question that keeps nagging at you: “Are legal fees for divorce tax deductible?” Well, my curious reader, the short answer is, it depends. But fear not! In this article, we’ll unravel the mystery surrounding the tax implications of divorce and shed light on whether those hefty legal fees can actually work in your favor come tax season. So, grab a cup of coffee, settle into a cozy chair, and let’s dive into the fascinating world where taxes and divorce collide.
Reasons to Keep Reading:
- Find out if you can catch a break: Nobody likes to pay more taxes than necessary. We’ll explore the intricacies of deducting legal fees for divorce and determine if there’s a glimmer of hope for your wallet.
- Discover the exceptions: Just when you thought legal fees were a lost cause, we’ll reveal some situations where they might actually be tax deductible. Get ready to learn about the magical land of tax advice and how it can turn the tables in your favor.
- Uncover hidden treasures: Divorce is not just about untangling emotions and assets; it’s also an opportunity for strategic tax planning. We’ll share some insider tips on how you can navigate the tax maze during divorce negotiations and come out on top.
- Explore beyond divorce: Our journey doesn’t end with legal fees. We’ll delve into a treasure trove of tax considerations, from retirement account division to health insurance implications, property transfers, and more. Get ready for a comprehensive exploration of the tax landscape in the realm of divorce.
So, whether you’re contemplating a split, knee-deep in divorce proceedings, or simply curious about the intersection of taxes and marital dissolution, this article is your passport to understanding the tax implications of divorce. Get ready for a wild ride where taxes and divorce dance hand-in-hand, and the mysteries of the IRS unfold before your eyes. Let’s embark on this journey together, armed with knowledge and a playful spirit, as we uncover the truth about the tax deductibility of legal fees for divorce.
Untangling the Tax Web: Are Legal Fees for Divorce Tax Deductible?
Divorce is a life-altering event that affects various aspects of a person’s life, including their finances. Amidst the emotional and practical challenges, it is essential to understand how taxes come into play during and after divorce. Tax implications can significantly impact both parties involved, affecting income, property division, and financial obligations.
1. Filing Status and Divorce
One of the fundamental changes during divorce is the alteration of your filing status. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognizes marital status based on the last day of the tax year (December 31st). Therefore, if your divorce is finalized by December 31st, you are considered unmarried for that entire year. However, if your divorce is still pending, you have the option to file jointly or separately, depending on your circumstances and the level of cooperation between you and your former spouse.
2. Child-Related Tax Considerations
a. Child Custody and Dependency Exemptions: Typically, the custodial parent claims the child as a dependent, allowing them to avail various tax benefits, such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). However, it’s possible to negotiate and allocate these exemptions between the parents through legal agreements or court orders.
b. Child Support and Alimony: Child support is generally not taxable for the recipient, nor is it deductible for the payor. Conversely, alimony (also known as spousal support) is typically taxable for the recipient and deductible for the payor, as long as it meets specific IRS criteria.
3. Property Division and Capital Gains Taxes
a. Transfer of Assets: During divorce, assets are often transferred between spouses as part of the property settlement. In such cases, the transfer is generally tax-free. However, ensuring that all transfers adhere to the IRS guidelines is crucial to avoid potential tax implications.
b. Capital Gains Taxes: If you decide to sell assets acquired during the marriage as part of the property division, capital gains taxes may apply. The gain or loss is typically calculated based on the difference between the original purchase price and the selling price. However, divorcing spouses may qualify for a higher capital gains exclusion if certain conditions are met.
4. Deductibility of Legal Fees
In general, legal fees paid for personal matters, including divorce, are not tax-deductible. The IRS considers divorce to be a personal expense, regardless of the circumstances. However, there are specific exceptions and situations where legal fees associated with divorce may be partially deductible. Legal fees incurred for tax advice specifically related to the divorce proceedings may be deductible. If the legal fees are paid to obtain advice on tax planning, property division, alimony, child support, or other tax-related aspects of the divorce, they could qualify for a deduction. It is essential to ensure that the legal advice sought is primarily for tax purposes and not for personal legal matters unrelated to taxes.
While there are circumstances where legal fees in divorce may be deductible, it is important to note that certain legal expenses are generally not eligible for deductions. These may include fees incurred for child custody battles, child support-related matters, property settlement negotiations, and personal legal matters unrelated to taxes. Understanding the distinction between deductible and non-deductible legal fees is crucial to avoid potential tax issues. Legal fees incurred in the production or collection of taxable alimony payments may be deductible. When spousal support (alimony) is taxable for the recipient and deductible for the payor, legal fees associated with obtaining or enforcing the alimony payments may be deductible. However, it is crucial to maintain proper documentation and records to substantiate the connection between the legal fees and the production or collection of taxable alimony.
5. Retitling Assets and Name Changes
During divorce, assets acquired during the marriage are typically subject to equitable distribution. This often involves retitling or transferring ownership of assets such as real estate, vehicles, investments, and bank accounts. The transfer of assets between divorcing spouses is generally tax-free if it occurs as part of the divorce settlement. However, it is crucial to follow specific IRS guidelines to ensure tax compliance and avoid potential tax implications.
However, if an asset is sold after its transfer as part of the divorce settlement, capital gains taxes may apply. The capital gains or losses are typically calculated based on the difference between the original purchase price and the selling price. It is important to understand the tax implications before making decisions regarding the sale of transferred assets. When an asset is transferred, the recipient’s tax basis in the asset may differ from that of the original owner. This can impact future tax calculations, particularly if the asset is later sold or generates income.
Following a name change, it is essential to update your tax records and use your new legal name when filing tax returns. Ensuring consistency between your tax documents and personal identification is crucial for accurate reporting. Updating your name with relevant agencies and financial institutions is important for tax reporting purposes. This includes employers, banks, investment accounts, and retirement plans, ensuring that all income and tax-related documents reflect the correct name.
6. Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs)
In cases where retirement accounts are subject to division, a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) may be necessary. A QDRO is a legal document that establishes the ex-spouse’s right to a portion of the retirement account benefits. It enables the transfer of funds between retirement accounts without incurring early withdrawal penalties or immediate tax consequences. The QDRO is typically prepared by the divorcing couple’s attorneys or a qualified professional specializing in QDROs. It must be reviewed and approved by the plan administrator and the court overseeing the divorce proceedings.
QDROs must meet certain criteria, including the plan’s guidelines and the regulations outlined in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). They must contain specific details regarding the division of benefits, such as the percentage or amount to be allocated to the non-employee spouse. QDRO distributions to the non-employee spouse are generally subject to income tax in the year they are received. However, these distributions are not subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty typically associated with early withdrawals from retirement accounts. To avoid immediate taxation, the non-employee spouse can opt to roll over the QDRO distribution into their own qualified retirement account, such as an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). This rollover allows them to maintain the tax-deferred status of the funds until future withdrawals.
7. Importance of Professional Guidance
Given the complexity of tax laws and the potential financial impact of divorce, seeking professional advice is highly recommended. An experienced divorce attorney and a tax professional can help navigate the intricate tax landscape and ensure compliance with applicable regulations, maximizing tax benefits and minimizing potential liabilities. Here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we understand the complexities associated with taxes and divorce, and our attorneys are always ready to help you navigate the space carefully.
Divorce brings significant changes to your personal and financial life, and taxes play a crucial role in this transition. Understanding the tax implications associated with divorce is essential for making informed decisions and safeguarding your financial well-being. By considering factors such as filing status, child-related tax considerations, property division, deductibility of legal fees, retiling assets, and seeking professional guidance, you can proactively manage the tax aspects of your divorce, potentially minimizing your tax burden and maximizing financial stability in the post-divorce phase. Remember, every divorce situation is unique, and it’s crucial to consult with legal and tax professionals to tailor the best strategies to your specific circumstances.
Are Legal Fees for Divorce Tax Deductible? Understanding the Tax Implications
Legal fees can quickly add up during a divorce, leaving individuals wondering if they can deduct these expenses on their tax returns. The tax implications of legal fees for divorce can be complex and depend on various factors. In this article, we will explore the question, “Are legal fees for divorce tax deductible?” and provide insights into the tax considerations surrounding divorce proceedings.
The General Rule: Non-Deductibility of Legal Fees for Personal Matters
In general, legal fees paid for personal matters, including divorce, are not tax-deductible. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers divorce to be a personal expense, regardless of the circumstances. Therefore, legal fees incurred for divorce-related purposes are not eligible for a tax deduction.
However, it’s important to note that there are specific exceptions and situations where legal fees associated with divorce may be partially deductible. Let’s delve into those scenarios.
Exception: Deductibility of Legal Fees for Tax Advice Related to Divorce
Legal fees incurred for tax advice specifically related to the divorce proceedings may be deductible. If the legal fees are paid to obtain advice on tax planning, property division, alimony, child support, or other tax-related aspects of the divorce, they could qualify for a deduction.
To qualify for the deduction, it is essential to ensure that the legal advice sought is primarily for tax purposes and not for personal legal matters unrelated to taxes. The IRS scrutinizes the purpose and nature of the legal fees to determine their deductibility.
Understanding Deductible and Non-Deductible Legal Fees
While there are circumstances where legal fees in divorce may be deductible, it’s crucial to understand that certain legal expenses are generally not eligible for deductions. These may include fees incurred for child custody battles, child support-related matters, property settlement negotiations, and personal legal matters unrelated to taxes.
To avoid potential tax issues, it’s important to distinguish between deductible and non-deductible legal fees and ensure proper documentation and records to substantiate the connection between the legal fees and tax-related aspects of the divorce.
The Tax-Deductible Portion: Legal Fees for Tax Planning
When spousal support (alimony) is taxable for the recipient and deductible for the payor, legal fees associated with obtaining or enforcing the alimony payments may be deductible. These legal fees are directly connected to the production or collection of taxable alimony.
To claim a deduction for legal fees related to alimony, it is crucial to maintain proper documentation and records that clearly establish the connection between the legal fees and the production or collection of taxable alimony.
Consulting with a Tax Professional
Given the intricacies of tax laws and the potential financial impact of divorce, consulting with a tax professional is highly recommended. An experienced tax professional can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation, ensuring compliance with applicable regulations, maximizing tax benefits, and minimizing potential liabilities.
A tax professional can analyze your individual circumstances, consider factors such as filing status, child-related tax considerations, property division, and other relevant aspects to provide comprehensive advice and strategies to navigate the tax implications of divorce effectively.
While legal fees for divorce are generally not tax-deductible as personal expenses, there are exceptions where legal fees associated with tax advice related to divorce may be deductible. Deductible legal fees primarily involve tax planning and the production or collection of taxable alimony.
It’s important to consult with a tax professional to understand the specific tax implications of your divorce situation and to ensure compliance with applicable tax laws. By seeking professional guidance and understanding the tax considerations, you can make informed decisions, maximize tax benefits, and minimize potential tax liabilities during and after divorce. Remember, each divorce situation is unique, and tailored advice is crucial for managing the tax aspects effectively.
Tax Implications of Spousal Support Modification
When it comes to modifying spousal support payments, it’s essential to consider the potential tax consequences. Changes in spousal support can affect both the deductibility for the payor and the taxable income for the recipient.
If spousal support payments are modified, it’s crucial to assess whether the modification qualifies as a “substantial change in circumstances” under the tax laws. A substantial change can impact the tax treatment of the payments.
For the payor, any modifications to spousal support payments should be carefully evaluated to determine if they still meet the criteria for tax deductibility. Failure to meet the requirements could result in the loss of the tax deduction.
Similarly, the recipient must consider the tax implications of modified spousal support payments. Changes in the taxable income resulting from modified payments can have an impact on the recipient’s overall tax liability.
To navigate the tax implications of spousal support modification effectively, it’s advisable to consult with a tax professional who can provide guidance based on your specific circumstances and applicable tax laws.
Division of Retirement Accounts
During divorce proceedings, the division of retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s, IRAs, and pensions, requires careful consideration of the tax implications.
When retirement accounts are divided, it’s important to understand that transfers made pursuant to a divorce decree or a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) generally do not trigger immediate tax consequences. These transfers are considered tax-free events. However, it’s crucial to follow specific guidelines to ensure compliance with tax regulations.
The division of retirement accounts can have long-term tax implications for both parties involved. For the spouse receiving a portion of the retirement account, any future distributions from the account will be subject to income tax. On the other hand, the spouse transferring a portion of the retirement account may benefit from the tax-deferred growth of the remaining funds.
To minimize tax liabilities and maximize the benefits of retirement account division, it’s advisable to consult with a tax professional who can provide personalized advice based on your specific circumstances.
Health Insurance and Tax Consequences
Divorce can bring about changes in health insurance coverage, and it’s important to understand the associated tax implications. The availability of health insurance coverage post-divorce and the tax consequences vary depending on the circumstances.
If you were previously covered under your former spouse’s health insurance plan, you may need to explore alternative coverage options after divorce. This could include obtaining coverage through your employer, purchasing an individual plan, or qualifying for government programs such as Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act marketplace.
It’s crucial to consider the tax implications of different health insurance arrangements. For instance, if you obtain health insurance through the marketplace, you may be eligible for premium tax credits based on your income level. These tax credits can help reduce the cost of health insurance premiums.
Additionally, if you are responsible for providing health insurance coverage for your children after divorce, it’s important to understand the tax treatment of health insurance premiums paid through a Qualified Medical Child Support Order (QMCSO). The tax consequences of these premiums may vary depending on the specific arrangements outlined in the QMCSO.
Considering the tax implications of health insurance coverage post-divorce and exploring the available options can help you make informed decisions and ensure compliance with tax regulations.
Qualified Medical Child Support Orders (QMCSOs)
In divorce or separation cases involving children, a Qualified Medical Child Support Order (QMCSO) may come into play. A QMCSO is a court-ordered arrangement that allocates the responsibility for providing health insurance coverage for the children of divorced or separated parents.
Under a QMCSO, the parent responsible for providing health insurance coverage must pay the premiums directly or reimburse the other parent for the premiums paid. These premium payments are typically made on an after-tax basis.
It’s important to understand the tax treatment of health insurance premiums paid through a QMCSO. The parent paying the premiums may not be able to claim a tax deduction for these expenses since they are typically paid with after-tax dollars. On the other hand, the parent receiving reimbursement for the premiums paid may not have to include the reimbursement amount as taxable income.
As with any legal matter involving taxes, it’s advisable to consult with a tax professional or attorney who can provide guidance specific to your situation and ensure compliance with the relevant tax laws and regulations.
Tax Treatment of Health Insurance Premiums
Health insurance premiums paid by the parent responsible for coverage
Typically paid with after-tax dollars; not tax-deductible.
Reimbursement for health insurance premiums received by the parent receiving support
Generally not included as taxable income.
Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) Considerations
Divorce and changes in income levels can impact a taxpayer’s exposure to the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The AMT is a separate tax calculation that applies to certain individuals with higher income levels or specific types of deductions.
During divorce, it’s important to assess whether changes in income, deductions, or other financial circumstances may trigger AMT liability. Divorce-related factors such as changes in filing status, itemized deductions, and exemptions can influence whether a taxpayer falls into the AMT bracket.
It’s advisable to work with a tax professional to understand the potential impact of the AMT and to explore strategies to minimize its effects. By evaluating your individual circumstances and considering various tax planning options, you can proactively manage the AMT implications during and after divorce.
Tax Consequences of Property Transfers Outside of Divorce Settlements
In divorce cases, property transfers between spouses typically occur as part of the divorce settlement. These transfers are often tax-free events, meaning they don’t trigger immediate tax consequences.
However, it’s essential to understand that transferring property outside of a divorce settlement agreement may have tax implications. When property is transferred as a gift between spouses, it can potentially trigger gift tax considerations. The donor may be subject to gift tax if the value of the transferred property exceeds the annual gift tax exclusion or the lifetime gift tax exemption.
In addition to gift tax considerations, the basis of the transferred property can also be impacted. The basis is the value used to calculate capital gains or losses when the property is eventually sold. The recipient spouse assumes the transferor’s basis in the property, potentially impacting their future tax calculations if they later sell the property or generate income from it.
To ensure compliance with tax regulations and to avoid unexpected tax consequences, it’s important to consult with a tax professional or attorney who can provide guidance specific to your situation.
Tax Planning Strategies During Divorce Negotiations
Divorce negotiations present opportunities for tax planning that can help minimize tax liabilities and maximize tax benefits. By considering various tax planning strategies during the negotiation process, individuals can make informed decisions that align with their long-term financial goals.
One key area for tax planning is property division. Understanding the tax basis, potential capital gains taxes, and depreciation recapture implications of different assets can be essential in achieving a tax-efficient division.
Alimony and child support agreements also have tax implications that can be taken into account during negotiations. By considering the tax treatment of these payments for both parties involved, it may be possible to structure the agreements in a way that optimizes tax benefits.
Additionally, tax planning can extend to other financial aspects such as retirement account division, educational expenses, and the timing of certain transactions. Evaluating these factors in light of tax considerations can help individuals make informed choices that align with their overall financial strategies.
To effectively navigate the tax planning opportunities during divorce negotiations, it’s advisable to consult with a tax professional who can provide personalized advice based on your specific circumstances and goals.
State-Specific Tax Laws
When it comes to divorce and taxes, it’s important to recognize that state-specific tax laws can play a significant role. Different states may have varying rules and regulations regarding property division, alimony, child support, and other tax-related matters.
For example, some states may have community property laws that govern how assets are divided in a divorce. Under community property laws, assets acquired during the marriage are generally considered jointly owned and subject to equal division. Other states may follow equitable distribution principles, where assets are divided based on what is deemed fair and equitable, considering various factors.
State tax laws may also affect the tax treatment of alimony and child support payments. Some states conform to federal tax rules, while others have their own guidelines and regulations.
To ensure compliance with state-specific tax laws and to optimize tax outcomes, it’s crucial to consult with a tax professional who is knowledgeable about the tax landscape in your particular state.
International Divorce and Tax Considerations
Divorce cases involving international aspects, such as one or both spouses being non-residents or having international assets, can introduce additional complexities and tax considerations.
In such cases, it’s important to be aware of potential tax treaties between countries that may impact tax liability, the availability of tax credits, and the reporting requirements. Tax treaties can help prevent double taxation and provide guidelines for determining which country has the primary right to tax certain income or assets.
Foreign tax credits may also be available to offset U.S. tax liability on income earned in foreign countries. These credits can help avoid or reduce the impact of double taxation.
Reporting requirements related to foreign assets, foreign income, and foreign financial accounts should also be considered. Failure to comply with these reporting obligations can result in penalties and legal consequences.
Due to the intricacies of international divorce and the potential tax implications, it’s advisable to work with professionals experienced in international tax matters, such as international tax attorneys or accountants.
Innocent Spouse Relief
Innocent spouse relief provides a potential avenue for one spouse to be relieved of joint tax liabilities resulting from errors or omissions on a jointly filed tax return. This relief is intended to protect individuals who were unaware of inaccuracies or underreporting of income by their spouse.
To qualify for innocent spouse relief, certain requirements must be met. The innocent spouse must demonstrate that they had no knowledge or reason to know of the inaccuracies, and it would be unfair to hold them responsible for the tax debt. The IRS considers factors such as the individual’s level of involvement in financial matters and the presence of abuse or coercion in the relationship.
Applying for innocent spouse relief involves submitting Form 8857 to the IRS and providing supporting documentation. It’s important to carefully follow the requirements and procedures outlined by the IRS to increase the chances of a successful claim.
In the context of divorce, innocent spouse relief can be particularly relevant if there were tax issues or discrepancies during the marriage. Seeking guidance from a tax professional or attorney experienced in innocent spouse relief can help navigate the process and understand the specific requirements.
Tax Implications of Property Refinancing
Refinancing jointly owned properties during or after divorce can have tax consequences that should be taken into account. Understanding the potential tax implications can help individuals make informed decisions and maximize tax benefits.
When refinancing a property, it’s essential to consider the tax treatment of mortgage interest deductions. Generally, mortgage interest paid on a primary residence can be tax-deductible, subject to certain limitations and criteria. If the property being refinanced is no longer considered a primary residence after divorce, the deductibility of mortgage interest may change.
Additionally, refinancing can affect the allocation of tax benefits between the former spouses. For example, if one spouse retains the property after refinancing, they may be entitled to the mortgage interest deduction going forward.
To ensure accurate tax reporting and optimize tax outcomes, it’s advisable to consult with a tax professional who can provide guidance specific to your situation and objectives.
Tax Consequences of Selling the Marital Home
Selling the marital home during or after divorce can have significant tax implications that should be carefully considered. Understanding these consequences can help individuals make informed decisions and plan accordingly.
One key consideration is capital gains taxes. If the proceeds from the sale of the marital home exceed the original purchase price (adjusted basis), a capital gain is realized. The gain is typically calculated based on the difference between the selling price and the adjusted basis.
However, certain tax provisions may allow for the exclusion of capital gains from the sale of a primary residence. The home sale exclusion, also known as the Section 121 exclusion, can potentially exclude up to $250,000 of capital gains for a single taxpayer or up to $500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly.
To qualify for the home sale exclusion, specific criteria must be met, such as owning and using the home as a primary residence for at least two out of the previous five years.
It’s important to consider the tax consequences of selling the marital home, including potential capital gains taxes and the availability of the home sale exclusion. Consulting with a tax professional can help navigate the complexities and determine the best course of action.
Retirement Account Contributions Post-Divorce
Divorce can impact retirement account contributions and eligibility for certain retirement savings plans. Understanding the rules and limitations associated with retirement account contributions after divorce is essential for planning purposes.
One factor to consider is changes in filing status. After divorce, individuals may need to adjust their filing status from married filing jointly to single or head of household. This change can affect the tax benefits associated with retirement account contributions.
For example, contributions to traditional IRAs may be tax-deductible depending on income limits and participation in employer-sponsored retirement plans. The ability to make deductible contributions can change with changes in income and filing status.
Additionally, divorce may affect eligibility for certain retirement savings plans. For example, if a spouse was covered by their former partner’s employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k), they may no longer be eligible to contribute to that plan after divorce. Exploring alternative retirement savings options may be necessary.
It’s important to consult with a tax professional and review the specific rules and limitations associated with retirement account contributions post-divorce. This will ensure compliance with tax regulations and help individuals make informed decisions regarding their retirement savings strategy.
Congratulations, my tax-savvy reader! You’ve successfully untangled the web of tax implications surrounding divorce. We’ve explored the captivating world where legal fees and taxes intersect, and you now hold the key to understanding whether those dreaded expenses can make a dent in your tax bill. But our journey doesn’t end here—oh no, there’s still so much more to discover!
As we bid adieu, let’s recap our findings. Are legal fees for divorce tax deductible? The short answer is…it depends! But fear not, because armed with the knowledge we’ve uncovered, you’re now equipped to navigate the choppy waters of divorce taxation with confidence and a mischievous grin.
Remember, not all hope is lost when it comes to deducting legal fees. We explored those delightful exceptions where tax advice and the production or collection of taxable alimony can open doors to potential deductions. We also uncovered a treasure trove of tax planning strategies during divorce negotiations, allowing you to outsmart the IRS and minimize those pesky tax liabilities.
But wait, there’s more! We took a detour through retirement account divisions, health insurance conundrums, property transfers, and even international divorce complications. The tax landscape of divorce is a wild, unpredictable realm, and we’ve left no stone unturned in our quest for knowledge.
So, dear reader, as you embark on your own divorce journey or simply satisfy your curiosity about the tax intricacies of marital dissolution, remember this: armed with the insights we’ve shared, you’re a tax-savvy superstar, ready to conquer the challenges ahead.
Now, go forth with a twinkle in your eye and a spring in your step, knowing that you possess the knowledge to tackle the tax maze of divorce. And should you find yourself lost in a whirlwind of legal fees, remember to consult with a trusted tax professional who can guide you through the twists and turns.
Divorce may be a rollercoaster, but with the power of tax knowledge on your side, you’re sure to come out on top. Here’s to a future filled with financial stability, tax deductions, and the sweet taste of victory!
So go ahead, embrace the fascinating dance between taxes and divorce, armed with knowledge and a playful spirit. It’s time to conquer the tax world, one divorce at a time!
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