Every single time you use your credit card to make a payment, or wish to transfer money using the banking system, credit card companies and banks charge you for it.
Wouldn't you love to get rid of that ?
Welcome to the Era of Bitcoin.
If you are a B2C merchant, giving your customers the ability to pay using bitcoin transactions is a must to stay on top of your competition as a lot of people people move into this new way to spend.
We’re going to dig deep into everything there is to know about Bitcoin and Small Business, but feel free to jump to any section that interests you:
- What is Bitcoin and How Does it Work
- How to Accept Bitcoin
- Should My Business Accept Bitcoin
- How do Companies that Accept Bitcoin Benefit
- Crypto Debit Cards
- Go Global
- The Future is Here
- Final Thoughts
What is Bitcoin in layman's terms?
Bitcoin is the first of what is now known as a cryptocurrency.
The newest way for small businesses to charge customers for goods sold or pay for products and services themselves.
Since the creation of Bitcoin, there have sprung up hundreds of other cryptocurrencies known as Alt-coins.
Out of the plethora of cryptocurrencies only the top twelve account for the majority of the total market capitalization.
BitCoin LiteCoin Ethereum and Bitcoin Cash are the most popular forms of digital currency in the US as these are the only ones you can buy with a Coinbase account (except Ethereum Classic which is being phased out).
You can buy and sell bitcoin now through multiple online bitcoin exchanges.
Even though this is a completely new way to accept payments in addition to existing methods, very few businesses now take advantage of this cutting-edge technology. .
Accepting bitcoin as payment requires you to choose a service provider.
The entire process is quick and simple and you can start accepting payments immediately.
How does the Bitcoin work?
Bitcoin and other cryptos, or this new form of payment, are entirely digital and do not have a paper counterpart.
Instead of needing serial numbers and a central entity, these cryptocurrencies use the latest form of encryption to make every transaction is secure and unique.
Within each bitcoin account, each bitcoin block has a unique bitcoin address that the bitcoin community uses to send or receive bitcoin.
Each type of cryptocurrency has its unique abilities on top of being a form of payment.
Most of these "cryptos," such as Bitcoin, limit the number of coins in circulation.
Others, like Ripple, have a small inflationary aspect to add more coins over time.
Of course pros and cons exist for each of the two forms of cryptocurrencies with heated debates on each side.
Understanding the facts is crucial companies that accept bitcoin or want to invest in bitcoin.
If your business becomes one of the first, if not the very first, to nail down these factors, you will be way ahead of your competitors.
How can your business start accepting BitCoin?
Accepting bitcoin as payment requires you to choose a service provider.
Crypto Merchant Services exist that allow the business owners to instantly sell bitcoin or any virtual currency received for goods or services into fiat, which eliminates any risk for businesses accepting bitcoin as payment to be affected by the price volatility of the bitcoin market and the worth of bitcoin.
Business owners also have the option to hold on to the digital currency, if they believe in the future of bitcoin and want to take advantage of the potential increase in the price of bitcoin, or partake in trading bitcoin.
Bitcoin trading however is risky and bitcoin exchanges that trade that virtual currency make a ton of money on the bitcoin price movements.
Investing in bitcoin long term, so far has resulted in much higher overall returns than trading in bitcoin, for the average individual.
If businesses accepting bitcoin choose not to hold on to the digital currency but instead want their country's fiat, bitcoin payment processor like CoinBase Merchant Services (or CoinGate in Europe) will instantly convert the received digital currency into dollars, euros, or a number of other fiat currencies at the current rate and will deposit money into the merchant's account.
Should your small business accept cryptocurrency?
Even though Bitcoin has been only around for a decade at this time, in the years of its existence the bitcoin community has grown exponentially.
These enthusiasts include businesses who recognize the huge benefit of not having to pay transaction fees to receive this crypto and the low cost to send, as well as the emerging technology of this new way to pay.
All around the world, there are more and more companies, including large corporations like Overstock, PayPal, Shopify and Microsoft accepting bitcoin payments.
Now is the best time for a retailers to follow suit and start accepting bitcoin payments to stay ahead of the curve.
Open your business to the world by allowing your customers to use the bitcoin network to buy from anywhere via mobile device or computer.
As a merchant or a customer, Bitcoin is much faster than traditional money as well as being much cheaper to receive as payment.
Customers are free to make payments online, or in person, when using on site.
The benefits of Bitcoin as compared to legacy credit cards far skew in favor of this new currency.
The most significant benefit to businesses when using Bitcoin is that it is free to receive payments and sending money to another company is typically much cheaper than would be in the traditional form.
Another benefit to businesses is that there is no risk of a chargeback.
All transactions are final just as it would be when using paper money.
After the user broadcasts the transaction to the network and the merchant sees the funds as pending in their account, it is up to them to award refunds, returns, or declare a sale as a fraud.
There are easy Point-Of-Sale applications for Bitcoin as well as ways to provide invoices for customers that run on a tablet computers like Apple iPad.
What are the benefits of accepting bitcoin as a payment method?
No transaction fees
This is due to the need for a central entity that does all the processing and takes a cut of each transaction to pay for the infrastructure.
For example, if a business accepts credit cards, there is about a 3% fee that the small business has to pay just to allow their customers to pay with a card.
This is how a payment processor like PayPal and Stripe work as well.
Transacting with the traditional banking system is very expensive due to the high fees.
When it comes to Bitcoin, the sender pays the fee, and due to its decentralized approach and a new way of verifying each transaction, the costs that the sender pays are much cheaper than the traditional system.
Bitcoin also has no recurring fees, restrictions, or limits on its use.
There are also online wallet applications that allow users to transact free of charge.
High transaction speeds
An average bank transaction takes anywhere between three and five days to settle.
Cryptocurrency usually takes only minutes to confirm transaction of any size.
Bitcoin has received some criticism recently for when the network is overloaded and accepting payments could take several hours to complete on the bitcoin blockchain.
Even that is still much better than a few days with a traditional bank.
Nevertheless, even that delay was addressed by the Bitcoin core development team and they have since reduced it to about an hour on average.
There are updates to the Bitcoin code that are being slowly rolled out across the network that will speed up transaction speeds even more, enable instant confirmations and make the issue of waiting longer than just a couple of minutes for a transaction to settle, a thing of the past.
BitCoin transactions are final
Any credit card transaction can be overturned by the bank.
Bitcoin on the other hand has no central authority and no way to overturn a sent transaction.
This one of the biggest advantages of accepting decentralized cryptocurrencies for any business - simply due to the fact that there is no way to lose the money earned.
There are never any charge backs on the Bitcoin network.
Once the funds are sent to the business the sender has no means of reversal like they do with the banking system.
This gives merchants much more control over the refunds they give out and gives them a rare opportunity of being the judge of determining whether or not the buyers' claims are true.
This finally gives the business owner the peace of mind of not having to worry about customer fraud against them by using stolen credit cards or fraudulent cash bills.
Another Payment Option For Customers
Traditionally the more ways a small business allows its customers to pay the better off that business ends up being.
A survey on payment processing showed that the average customer will use up to five different forms of payment when the option is there.
Merchants accepting BitCoin will attract a wider range of customers.
Especially those who are looking for places to spend their crypto for goods and services.
Bitcoin operates outside of any nation or government and can be sent from everywhere to anywhere.
Because it is not controlled by an entity it allows all businesses to expand their customer base to anyone in the world.
This cuts out operating expenditures because now there is no need to exchange currency between nations, and traditionally accepting cross-border payments can be quite expensive.
Bitcoin is Bitcoin no matter what country it is used to buy goods or services.
Instead of the hassle of dealing with multiple currencies when transacting around the world, Bitcoin users only need an internet connection and a web store accepting Bitcoin from your business, to be able to buy your products.
On top of all that, blockchains can facilitate B2B transactions efficiently without the need for intermediaries, saving time and resources for everyone involved.
Advantages for companies that accept Bitcoin
With the traditional system of payments, the banks are the main intermediary in every transaction.
When we eliminate these middle men, a transaction turns into peer-to-peer payment or person-to-person allowing for cheaper fees, faster payment, and zero risk of error on the banks' part.
There was even studies done by companies such as Facebook and MasterCard where they learned that the younger the generation of customers the less trust they had in the banking system.
These young people preferred technology payment options such as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to the traditional banking systems currently in place.
No one has "absolute" control
Bitcoin's blockchain is on open source, peer-to-peer payment system, that has no central authority.
No entity is able to cancel a transaction, block a specific payment, or meddle inside the network.
There are no third parties that are able to enact policies, set arbitrary limits, or require personal data to be reported.
Clear and transparent
Many think that Bitcoin is anonymous but this is not the case.
Every transaction can be viewed on the blockchain and anyone can view information about the transaction.
Names are not included but times, amounts, and fees paid all show.
Every transaction can be traced back to the creation of that Bitcoin or very first block in the chain.
The information needed to determine refunds is no longer held in secret by the banking institutions.
Most governments have either already passed or are on the verge of adopting Anti-Money-Laundering Crypto Laws.
United States requires online crypto brokers or exchanges such as CoinBase as well as mobile app base crypto brokers like ABRA to require personal information including social security when opening an account.
Bitcoin is divisible down to one one millionth of a single Bitcoin. This allows for any transaction of any value to be able to use the currency no matter how small it might be.
Other cryptocurrencies operate in similar fashion and some even add extra features like "smart contracts", free transactions for the sender, or enhanced privacy.
Bitcoin core development group is closely watching how those features will perform in a real environment by monitoring other cryptos, and since all decentralized currencies are open source (meaning the code is available to anyone for free), will adapt the best performing pieces to the BitCoin code, and offer the same features in the near future.
Bitcoin is very secure and this security will only get better.
In order for a hacker to get into the network and commit fraud, they will need fifty one percent of all the power on the network.
This is more computing power than all the world’s supercomputers combined!
The transactions are secured via public key cryptography which is the most secure way to send data that we know of to date.
With multi-signatures, the requirement for more than one person to authorize the transfer of funds makes for a great way to be sure the business funds are used appropriately.
For storing Bitcoins earned or bought there are many possible solutions.
The best and most secure is called "cold storage".
This means that the encrypted currency resides on a media that is NOT connected to the internet making the possibility of losing any funds much more difficult.
Cold storage can take many forms such as paper, a usb drive, or a device made for this exact purpose of security.
We recommend using a mix of these two:
Storing certain amount of your cryptos online with exchanges such as CoinBase that not only store 98% of all customers' crypto in the state of the art "Cold Storage" facility, disconnected from the internet, but their customers are also insured against any losses resulting from a breach of CoinBase’ physical security, cyber security, or by employee theft.
Storing the crypto you don't intend to use regularly, on a special "cold storage" device like Ledger Nano S, which you can buy on Amazon.
On the flip side, always do a lot of research on apps and web based crypto wallets.
These claim convenience but may put the holder at risk of loss if the app or web wallet is malicious.
Also, these online services to store Bitcoin are prone to attack by hackers and even if the creators are working in our interest the apps still may be vulnerable to hacking.
In the event that you need to use an online wallet or phone app there are a few things you can do to keep your funds safe.
The first is to never store all of your wealth in one place.
Second make a strong password that is used nowhere else and is very unique.
Finally make sure to use two factor authentication (2FA).
- 2FA is like a second password that your mobile phone generates and changes every minute or so.
- There are many 2FA apps out there but the most trusted is Google Authenticator and will produce your six digit rolling code without the need for text messaging like some other forms of online security measures.
The total amount of Bitcoins ever to be created is set at 21 million coins.
This limit gives Bitcoin the ability to be inflation proof since new coins will not be created to drive supply down as we see happening with traditional fiat currency.
As the popularity and need for Bitcoin grows more people will want a piece of the pie.
Naturally this will continue to drive the price higher.
The anti-inflation side of Bitcoin makes it a great way to protect a business' wealth for the long term.
The fact that Bitcoin is an open source project means that the likelihood of this disappearing is extremely low.
When a program in open source it means that anyone who wants to help make the program better or just maintain the current state can contribute.
Since any and all users who know how to read code can audit the programming of the Bitcoin software we can be sure that any flaws if any are ever introduced will be found and addressed before ever being actually implemented.
With Bitcoin there is no issues about payments finalizing over a holiday.
Bitcoin is always online and any time a user sends a payment it is processed in order that it was received.
There is no limit on the number of transactions that Bitcoin will produce in a given day so any business can be assured that payments will go through no matter the day of the year.
Expanding user base
The limited number of Bitcoin digital currency created per year allows for a steady growth in worth of BitCoin over time.
There are more than ten million Bitcoin users at the time of writing this article and that number will only rise as years move further into the future.
Every quarter new Bitcoin based projects emerge adding more ways to use this new technology, adding user flexibility, and competition for the best user experience for all of us.
The digital currency Bitcoin is still very much a niche way to pay with those looking to spend BitCoin and they are very eager to do so.
This will continue to expand with time as the number of those who uses bitcoin keeps growing and getting out in front now could be a huge boost for any business.
There was a study done on "shopping cart abandonment" and about 28% of all abandoned online shopping carts are due to lack of payment options.
Accept BitCoin payments in your online store and help lower this percentage both today and in the future.
Cryptocurrency wallet accounts
In order for us to use Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency we need to create an account on a wallet of some sort.
The best options for long term are hardware wallets as we mentioned above but there are other options that would be best for every day payments.
It's best to use the hardware wallet like your bank account and have your mobile or online wallet act like the wallet you would carry cash around with in the traditional sense of money.
Both hardware and mobile wallets allow the user to send and receive the cryptocurrency it's designed for.
The most popular platforms to accept Bitcoin within the business world are CoinBase Merchant Services in the United States or CoinGate in Europe.
These services allow you to either hold Bitcoin or cash them out for the fiat currency of your choice.
It only takes a few minutes to create an account with these services and they allow you to buy Bitcoin for USD in case you want to invest.
Buying Bitcoin with on these platforms will take a few days over ACH due to the traditional banking system limitations.
Once you create your account the wallet provider will assign an address for you of about thirty characters.
This is what your customers need in order to send you payments.
You will get a QR code that people can scan to send payments making it much easier than having to type in the long line of letters and numbers.
Your wallet also has a private key that needs to stay secret.
This key is how the business sends funds to either receive fiat currency or to buy goods from another business.
The most popular wallet providers hide this from the users to limit the chance of sending out the wrong key and the business losing their Bitcoin.
If you decide you want to keep Bitcoin for the long term and not sell them right away it is also a good idea to get a hardware wallet.
Some wallet providers allow the owner to accept only Bitcoin while others like Coinbase, give the business the ability to accept other top cryptocurrencies.
Make sure you know which cryptos your wallet allows you to store and be sure to give out the corresponding QR code to your customer.
Sending a coin that does not match the wallet will result in a loss of funds for the customer.
There is no downside for a business to accept multiple forms of cryptocurrency since they have the ability to immediately convert them to fiat for traditional use.
"Bitcoin is the only cryptocurrency with any type of retail footprint. However, it’s relatively easy to accept other coins and there’s no reason not to accept multiple types. All you have to do is open a merchant wallet and post your public address so customers know where to send the coins. These digital wallet companies automatically convert cryptocurrencies into a business’s sovereign currency, thus removing any tax and accounting issues and market risk.”
David Yermack, Professor of Finance at NYU.
ShiftCard by CoinBase
ShiftCard is a debit card that CoinBase offers that gives the account holder a way to spend their Bitcoin as if it was traditional fiat currency.
All the user needs to do is use the card as they would with a credit card and CoinBase then deducts the exact amount of Bitcoin at the current exchange rate at the time of use.
This makes the use of Bitcoin easy and seamless for businesses and customers alike.
If the business uses the CoinBase wallet to accept Bitcoin payments they can then use the Shift Card to spend that Bitcoin without having to sell it beforehand.
The ShiftCard is the best option card today.
It is a VISA card and works everywhere that VISA is accepted including online, offline, and worldwide.
Shift Card can also be used at ATMs worldwide as a way to quickly get fiat cash for your Bitcoin as you need.
At the time of writing, the ShiftCard is only open to United States CoinBase customers.
There are also fees currently associated with obtaining and using the Shift Card.
It costs $20 USD to order the card for use, when withdrawing cash with the card there is a $2.50 fee for Domestic ATM Withdrawals and $3.50 for international, an international transaction fee of 3% of the total per transaction (there are no fees for domestic conversions between bitcoin and the USD) and a $10 card replacement fee per card needed.
In Europe and UK another way to pay with Bitcoin is to use the CryptoPay Virtual Debit Card.
This virtual card works the same as a normal plastic card without actually holding the card.
All the user has to do is login to CryptoPay to gather the details necessary and copy and paste them to the online retailer.
As long as the eCommerce merchant accepts VISA the virtual card will buy whatever it is you need.
If you want to user your CryptoPay account offline they do have offer the option of obtaining a physical plastic card.
Use Crypto - Go Global
One of the best ways to make your business more competitive is to take business to all areas of the world.
Most businesses that make the effort to sell to customers in other countries see a positive return in less than two years time.
Thirty four percent of those companies return a profit in as short as six months after opening up their business to the world!
Adding Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency will allow your business to be more competitive and out shine any competitors that chose against opening up their sales to the world.
When you allow customers from all around the world to pay using Bitcoin you do so in a peer-to-peer transaction without the need for a bank.
This means the prices can remain competitive for your overseas customers and give the company more net profit since there are no fees to accept Bitcoin.
As we move away from paper currency we move closer to a borderless economy and cryptocurrencies now push this notion to the extreme.
This global value in using Bitcoin will only increase as adoption picks up and the currency continues to go mainstream.
Faster transactions, zero fees, and no exchange rate risk, positions all cryptocurrencies in a unique situation to become the dominant way to pay across borders.
These perks give small businesses today a big advantage over the same in the past.
Only ten years ago at the time of writing this post, none of this was an option to a small business and going global was a much bigger risk.
No longer does the business need to be at the mercy of a third party financial institutions.
With Bitcoin there is no need to worry about a bank getting in the way of your sales and potential to earn outside of your country.
All thanks to the peer-to-peer backbone that cryptocurrencies are built upon the small business does not have to fear the risk and cost of operating all over the world.
Taxes and cryptocurrency
Cryptocurrency and taxation is the biggest question small business have when they being to accept Bitcoin and others.
The IRS does not consider this new form of money as a currency in the traditional sense of the word.
Here is what you need to know:
Receiving payment in bitcoin
If you receive Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency as payment for a good or service you are taxed the same way you would be when accepting any type of property as payment.
All the income earned from cryptocurrency must be treated as cash for taxation purposes.
If you use a service that automatically converts the earned crypto to cash and deposits that money into a bank account the reporting is simplified.
After the funds are deposited into your account all the business owner has to do is categorize the transaction as normal revenue and include the amount in their gross revenue numbers for the year.
All crypto is taxed at the typical rate as defined by the business' corporate structure.
If the business owner chooses not to convert the Bitcoin to cash as soon as it is received the taxation process becomes a bit more complicated.
As an independent contractor you will need to mark the payment as regular income and may have to declare a capital gain or a loss in the future if and when you sell.
”Cryptocurrency is treated as property for tax purposes. If you don’t convert it immediately to cash, you may have a capital gain or loss in the future when you eventually sell the currency. There is also the need to convert crypto into real currency for accounting and financial reporting purposes.
For example, to report revenue, the crypto is required to be in your base currency, which is different from a company that has revenue in both dollars and euros but simply reports everything in dollars.”
David Yermack, Professor of Finance at NYU.
Bitcoin for employee payment
When a business pays their employee with Bitcoin, that transaction is treated like an “in-kind payment” and the business must pay their payroll taxes of the market price of the amount of Bitcoin paid out.
Make sure to withhold any income tax as you would with a traditional payment method when paying your employees with Bitcoin.
This is done the same way a business would when paying an employee with any other form of property.
Do not forget to account for ICA (Social Security and Medicare) taxes and FUTA (federal unemployment) tax.
If you use a payroll company, make sure to check with them for more information on "non-cash" wages.
If you do not have a payroll company you can read in greater detail about this in IRS Publication 15.
Information reporting & bitcoin
Just because you are not paying your employees with "money" does not mean you can skip the reporting step on your yearly taxes.
If you pay an independent contractor in bitcoin you will need to file a 1099-MISC form with the IRS if the total paid over the year is greater than $600.
If you have more than 200 transactions totaling more than $20,000 for the year with your Bitcoin exchange they will send you a 1099-K for reporting purposes.
No matter the payment to any employee you will need to file a W-2 for each of them.
Even though this is a new technology the IRS is not far behind and it is always better to comply.
If you are ever unsure of anything regarding taxes and Bitcoin please speak to a tax professional.
The Future is Here
Signing agreements with vendors through smart contracts
Signing up a contract with a vendor or a third party requires a lawyer for both you and them.
This takes a lot of time that could be used much better to grow your business instead.
After the contract is drafted each party then needs to sign the papers followed by notarization just to get to work and to be able to receive payments.
If the paying party did not pay, the contractor doing the work, would have to go back to seek help from lawyers again in order to file a complaint.
Enter "Smart Contracts" - a new way to set up contracts using blockchain technology that makes the entire process much more simple.
A smart contract is an agreement placed on the blockchain where an event (such as a payment) will execute as soon as the contract is fulfilled.
The parties involved determine the conditions to meet, the amount of cryptocurrency to pay, and a desired time frame for the work to complete.
Once the smart contract is submitted to the blockchain it can not change and copies are made on each computer running the cryptocurrency software.
Once the contract is filled the blockchain pays out the predetermined amount of crypto on the due date of the project without any intervention needed by either party.
One of the ways to create such contracts is already in existence.
It's service product called "Agrello" which let's users create such contracts without the need for lawyers, through their smartphone app called Agrell ID and may be used by businesses or individuals to conduct various transactions in a structured and binding manner.
Conserving power through Smart Electric Grids
For a few years cryptocurrency is reported to use a lot of energy which concerns many people.
Luckily, smart people have taken up this issue and created a way to use blockchain technology to conserve energy.
This is done by using the blockchain to enable people with solar power to sell their excess power for the needs of cryptocurrencies.
Their excess power is stored on a smart grid tied into a blockchain which monitors power usage both coming in and going out.
This also enables communities as a whole, to sell their extra power to neighbors in need of power during an outage.
All of which is handled via cryptocurrency!
Any business owner in a city using this technology will benefit from lower power costs as well as earn money for giving back to the smart grid.
With a big enough solar power facility, a business can became a net power provider.
Brooklyn MicroGrid is one such project.
It is these kind of crypto based projects that will enable business to keep track of more metrics and help distribute energy around their region to provide a more stable market for them and their region.
Track logistics and vendor shipping
Since the blockchain is "tamper resistant" we are able to trust it with our documents and data.
Any and all information can be added and once it is in a block it can not get changed but may still be audited, monitored, and tracked as needed.
This will save time and money for any business that needs to track inventory, shipping, or another type of data important to logistics.
Receiving inventory? It can be on the blockchain.
Selling inventory? Record in on the blockchain.
Shipping date? Check the blockchain.
Whether you buy inventory, sell a product, need to check if something has shipped, or if a product is delivered, the blockchain will have it and it won't get accidentally deleted.
So there is no more need for expensive programs to do this very task that may end up destroyed due to a computer crash or loss of a database.
And on top of that, it can all be done in real time with little or no intervention from the business owner or their employees.
There are already several startups taking on this issue and it will not be long until this new way to track logistics and data become the norm.
Pay with Bitcoin
One of the main criticisms of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency is the lack of practical use.
There have not been easy ways to use Bitcoin to pay for things like a mortgage, gasoline for our cars, or our home power bill.
We want to use cryptocurrency to its full potential and use it for life's main purchases while seeing our value grow over time as the prices continue to rise.
It was a slow road to get were we are today with debit cards like we have today from CoinBase and CryptoPay.
This is just the beginning and more options will arise as more people learn about Bitcoin.
The ability to spend the earned Bitcoin anywhere VISA is accepted without first having to sell the crypto for fiat currency is a major step in taking this technology mainstream.
Even though cryptocurrencies are still new they are already well established and are here to stay.
Already there are more than 100,000 businesses using cryptocurrencies for daily transactions.
Giants like Microsoft and Overstock.com, have begun accepting them as well.
Hundreds more are following their lead.
Any business that fails to follow suit and accept this technology now, risks getting left behind.
Make the effort to learn how all of it works because the sooner your business starts accepting BitCoin and other cryptos and takes advantage of what they can offer the better positioned your company will be for the coming future.
“I personally believe that there is going to be a one or a few legitimate trusted digital currencies off of the blockchain technology.
And that legitimacy and trust in terms of its consumer application will have to be legitimized by a brand and a brick and mortar environment, where the consumer has trust and confidence in the company that is providing the transaction.”
Schultz (CEO of Starbucks)
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