Income Limit For Maximum Social Security Tax 2023

Social Security is America's national pension system. The income limit for maximum social security tax goes up every year. This is because Social Security is underfunded by roughly 25% as of 2022. The 2023 income limit for maximum Social Security tax rose 9% to $160,200.

For those of you who believe the government is efficient and benevolent, this is good news. Looking back, the income limit for maximum Social Security tax was $147,000 for 2022, up from $142,800 in 2021, and $137,700 in 2020. Curiously, for 2022 that equated to only a 2.94% increase versus the 5.9% COLA increase for 2022.

Raising the income limit for Social Security tax brings in more funds. And thereby increases the viability of our national pension system.

Let's look at the income limit for maximum Social Security tax another way in case you're confused. It's also known as the Social Security wage base. What does that mean? After you make over $160,200 in 2023, every additional dollar no longer faces the 6.2% Social Security tax rate.

But, it still faces the Medicare tax for an unlimited amount of income. Therefore, higher income earners do catch a FICA tax break where they see their after-tax income go up. Keep in mind, however, that there is an additional Medicare tax of 0.9% for high-income taxpayers with earned income of more than $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly).

Social Security Is Underfunded

It is estimated that Social Security's long-term unfunded liability is now underfunded by $56 trillion. And by the year 2034, Social Security is expected to run out of all excess reserves unless significant action is taken. That would mean that citizens eligible for Social Security in 2034 will only be able to collect ~77% of what is promised on their statements.

Further, due to huge stimulus spending in 2020 and 2021 to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the federal government budget deficit is in an even deeper hole. All hopes are for an economic recovery to bring back much needed tax revenue. However, Biden has also promised to keep the stimulus packages coming to ensure we return to prosperity.

Raising the income limit in 2023 by $13,200 or 9% helps the solvency of Social Security, but it is clear we're all at risk when it's time for us to collect.

The best way to view Social Security is to never expect it to ever payout. The traditional three-legged stool for retirement is obsolete. My new three-legged stool for retirement dictates you must only depend on you (pre-tax savings), you (taxable investments), and you (extra work).

Explaining Social Security Tax

The Social Security tax is a federal tax imposed on employers, employees and self-employed individuals. It is used to pay the cost of benefits for elderly recipients, survivors of recipients, and disabled individuals (OASDI Insurance). OASDI stands for old age, survivors, and disability insurance tax.

Social Security tax is a payroll tax that is automatically withheld on your wage and tax statement each pay cycle. Below is a typical Wage and Tax Statement that shows Social Security tax withheld in box 4 and Medicare tax withheld in box 6.

Income Limit For Maximum Social Security Tax

The Social Security tax rate is 12.4% – 6.2% withheld from the employer and 6.2% withheld from the employee.

The Medicare tax rate is 2.9% – 1.45% withheld from the employer and 1.45% withheld from the employee.

The total Social Security + Medicare (FICA) tax rate is 15.3%. If you are self-employed, you must pay the full 15.3%, but you can take a deduction for half this amount.

The Maximum Social Security Tax Amount And Benefits

Given the new income limit for Social Security tax is $160,200 for 2023 and the Social Security tax born by the employee is 6.2%, the maximum Social Security tax payable by an employee is $160,200 X 6.2% = $9,932.

The maximum Social Security benefit for someone retiring at full retirement age in 2023 is $3,627. This is up from $3,100 in 2022, $2,861 in 2020 and $2,950 in 2021.

However, the average Social Security benefit is closer to $1,827 a month. Receiving the average $21,924 a year in Social Security benefits is nice supplemental income. However, it's simply too low to live comfortably in most places in the US.

Just imagine how stressful it would be if you became ill and needed a bunch of medical treatments or long-term care. That $21,924 could easily be wiped out from medical bills alone.

Thus, it's imperative that we all stay disciplined to fund our tax-advantageous retirement plans and taxable investment portfolios.

Click over to my Social Security strategies page to get more ideas. Now, take a look at the historical maximum wages subject to Social Security since 2000 below. Pay close attention to the increases in the wage base. The 9% in 2023 really stands out. It's time to save, save, save!

Historical Social Security Income Limits And Tax Amounts

Self-Employment Tax Is Painful And Unfair

The fact that a self-employed person or small business owner has to pay the full 12.4% Social Security tax and the full 2.9% Medicare tax is a raw deal.

The self-employed person and small business owner are not getting double the Social Security or Medicare benefits. The extra 7.65% tax (6.2% + 1.45%) on operating profits is essentially a business expense. It is an extra cost of being self-employed or doing business, and is, therefore, deductible.

As an employee, you might feel happy about not having to pay the extra 7.65% tax. However, know that there's no free lunch. If your employer didn't have to pay Social Security and Medicare tax, you might have better benefits or a higher salary.

Related: The Best Age To Take Social Security

How To Pay Less Social Security Tax

As an employee, there really is no workaround to paying less Social Security tax. You may feel better about paying Social Security tax when your income surpasses the Social Security tax income limit for the year.

For example, let's say you make $260,200 in taxable income for 2022 as an employee. $100,000 of your income will not be subject to Social Security tax. As a result, the after-tax income you receive on the $100,000 above $160,200 will increase by $9,932.

As an employer, the only way to reduce Social Security tax is to pay your employees less. Same thing as a self-employed person.

If you own an S-Corp, a common strategy was to pay yourself as low a wage as possible to pay less self-employment tax. Then pay as much of your profits in distributions as possible to avoid paying self-employment tax. But I think this strategy is going away with new tax reform.

If you want to reduce your chance of an audit, it's probably best to pay yourself at least the maximum income limit for Social Security tax so the government knows it's getting theirs. You can then figure out a way to reduce your taxable income with strategic business expenses, if you have the revenue and expenses to do so.

The best way to not pay Social Security and Medicare tax is to not earn W-2 or 1099 income. Instead, generate investment income. Investment income isn't subject to Social Security withholding and it is taxed at a lower long-term capital gains tax rate.

If you're unfamiliar with how capital gains works, check out these helpful examples of short-term and long-term capital gains tax calculations.

Build More Retirement Income Through Real Estate

Real estate is my favorite way to achieving financial freedom because it is a tangible asset that is less volatile, provides utility, and generates income. By the time I was 30, I had bought two properties in San Francisco and one property in Lake Tahoe. These properties now generate $200,000 a year in passive income.

Take a look at my two favorite real estate crowdfunding platforms. Both are free to sign up and explore.

Fundrise: A way for accredited and non-accredited investors to diversify into real estate through private eFunds. Fundrise has been around since 2012 and has consistently generated steady returns, no matter what the stock market is doing. For most people, investing in a diversified eREIT is the way to go. 

CrowdStreet: A way for accredited investors to invest in individual real estate opportunities mostly in 18-hour cities. 18-hour cities are secondary cities with lower valuations, higher rental yields, and potentially higher growth due to job growth and demographic trends. If you have a lot more capital, you can build you own diversified real estate portfolio. 

I have personally invested $810,000 in real estate crowdfunding to generate more retirement income. I don't plan to rely on Social Security benefits in retirement.

Don't Expect To Receive Social Security Benefits

Treat Social Security as an expense to help support older generations who paved the way for your success. If you end up receiving Social Security benefits, then wonderful. It will truly feel like bonus money.

If you don't end up receiving Social Security benefits, then all the same. You helped your elders and never expected to receive any benefits in the first place.

Looking for a free wealth management tool? Sign up for Personal Capital to track your net worth, analyze your portfolio for excessive fees, and make sure your retirement is on track with their Retirement Planner. There is no rewind button in life. Make sure your finances are in order.

For more nuanced personal finance content, join 55,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009. Everything is written based off firsthand experience. The maximum income for Social Security tax is an FS original post.

58 thoughts on “Income Limit For Maximum Social Security Tax 2023”

  1. Mark Fuckerburg Zucks

    Big math question. What if there was actually a trust fund that ALL the money earmarked for SS went into that account and the money was only spent on SS benefits. No politician slush fund using that money on their pet projects allowed, only retirement for those who paid into it.
    If that money was allowed to accumulate and perhaps have some growth with interest as Bush 43 proposed (along with personal ownership), we probably wouldn’t have a SS problem. Hell, retirement benefits could probably be at 50yrs old with the tax staying under 100k of income. I’m completely speculating because of the sheer size of calculation, but I guarantee there wouldn’t be a looming problem if the politicians didn’t put their greedy hands on those funds over the years since inception in the 1940s.

  2. The typical 3% average increase in the FICA max comes from measured wage growth, which is why there was no change in 2008-2010.

    The benefit increase is set by the measured inflation, though many will dispute the choice of indexes here. If you go back 50 years, Congress set it every year, and as you can imagine, this political exercise is not done with long term solvency in mind.

    Personally, I have hard time with proposals to crank up the max limit, or to include other income, as it just seems like a vehicle to lie about the size of the deficit, and fund more government (more wars, more free stuff) when we should be at least holding the line, if not trying to gradually shrink our military budget. And I’m not happy about only getting 15% credit on half my current contributions. This is just an income tax.

  3. TruthTeller

    If the cap on SS tax is to be removed, then the SS tax should be applied to all income – earned and passive. I also believe that that income tax and capital gains tax should be the same. Why should my time employed be taxed at a higher rate than my money’s time? Lower capital gains tax is the biggest reason the income gap in America continues to expand.

    1. Paper Tiger

      Lower capital gains tax is also one of the reasons the economy in America continues to expand as well. We can’t keep dumbing everything down trying to make all the incentives equal and not kill our competitive and entrepreneurial spirits. The consumer, not the government, is 70% of the economy and small business is what is driving our business growth and financial success as a nation. Reduce all the incentives that support both the consumer and small business and you turn us into Europe or worse. Socialism does not work and governments are incapable of managing it correctly as proven over and over throughout history.

      1. I agree with you that incentives are important, we should not dumb down everything and the government is incapable. Like you, I am also not a proponent of socialism. I just don’t agree that the tax rate on a person’s time should be different than the tax rate on money’s time. Think about that concept objectively. Taxes should be low for everyone (ideally with a flat tax + a standard deduction) and the government should be a fraction of its current size… one can only dream.

        The stock market (not the economy) continues to expand because of the $1+ trillion annual deficits, QE, 3 interest rate cuts and regular cheerleading tweets. Operating profits (not EPS which is manipulated with stock buybacks) peaked in 2018 for most companies.

        1. The problem with trying to make the rates the same is that government, particularly democrats, will push to move the capital gains tax “up” to match income tax rates rather than the other way around, using that extra revenue for needless expansion of government programs that drive even more dependency on the government and away from the individual. You just can’t afford to take that risk without compromising everyone in the process.

          If the government ever gets serious about fiscal responsibility then your point has merit but we are moving further away, rather than closer, to a government that truly acts “by the people and for the people.”

    2. Is it? I would think it would only be fair that long-term capital gains tax be lower than income tax because we already paid tax on the capital.

      If you go to Hong Kong or Singapore, there’s no tax at all for long-term capital gains.

    3. My opinion is that there is a dynamic between income tax and wealth that few people recognize.

      You can be ultra wealthy and pay a low tax rate. On the other hand, you can be making 200k out of school but be saddled with student loans and a negative net worth.

      Our income tax system is harsh on low net worth individuals regardless of income. It’s hard to build wealth from scratch because of income tax and medical premiums/expenses in my opinion.

      In other words, a high marginal rate on a household making 250k is no big deal if they’re worth 5 million. On the other hand, if you just spent 8 years in college forgoing significant income and have a negative net worth due to student loans, a high marginal rate on 250k is very burdensome with regard to wealth building.

      You never hear people talk about this though… I think it’s because people are largely financially and mathematically challenged to put it nicely.

      1. Joe Wolsleger

        I think more because people are not educated enough on how to build wealth. Recommended reads are the Millionaire Next Door, The New Millionaire Next Door, The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach and his “Latte factor”. Those are good starters on how to build wealth. Plus reading Financial Samurai!

  4. penguinboy25

    Well, they are going to have to have something for people. Especially as this country continues to lean more progressive and liberal. As the boomers die off and younger people start controlling the country, my guess is taxes will continue to rise and collectivism will insert itself. I guess I am for social security, but I am silently pretending it won’t exist. I don’t want to normalize the expectation and commentary that we all think it won’t be there, because I don’t want the government to get a free pass.

  5. No maximum earnings limit will serve the trust fund well. Everyone benefits from a society with a healthy safety net. I exceed the max every year but I’d gladly pay my share if they decided to get rid of the max earnings limit.

      1. John, your comment perfectly shows why charity and non-profits are total scams. In a market-based capitalistic system we are all trying to reduce our costs, the system is designed to incent secrecy, scarcity, self interest and competition. To go against it would mean perpetual poverty for anyone. It’s the system that is rotten (but apparently your ability to think critically on this is also rotten), and until we move away from market-based capitalism, the outcomes, which is the key word here, will remain terrible for the many, ok for a small few and fantastic to the mega wealthy/powerful.

        1. Mark Fuckerburg Zucks

          I don’t understand what you are saying here. Charity and non profits are scams but capitalism is also evil. What system are in your wet dreams?
          Capitalism is the best engine to create wealth for the masses and improve the baseline living among everyone. Also, if someone wants to contribute to the government, what’s wrong with that?

  6. Sam, this is a bit of a rabbit trail but your readers might be interested in hearing about the 414(h) Social Security Alternate plans. Newly formed government entities have the option to opt out of Social Security. My employer (a county hospital est back in 2006) hasn’t paid any SS funds to Washington DC for over 10 years. Instead the 12.4% (6.2% from employee and employer) are contributed to a 414(h) plan for the employee. How the funds are invested is directed by the employee and the contributions are pretax (unlike SS).

    I have turned down other higher paying jobs because the total compensation package doesn’t come close to covering the loss of the 414(h).

  7. StanDaManHi

    One way to reduce the FICA/Medicare is pay into a traditional 401k/403b and other pretax items on your paycheck.

    1. Brian Reiss

      That’s actually not correct. 401(k) and 403(b) contributions will not reduce your FICA/Medicare payable from your wages. However Section 125 contributions (Health , Dental, Flex Spending, Dependent Care reimbursement will reduce FICA/Medicare.

  8. I believe that the US government should raise the limit on social security tax. Many retirees rely on it especially ones that don’t much of a savings. I mean it will help everyone when they retire and know that they have an okay amount of social security on them. For others retirees it’s another means of income alongside their retirement account. It can always help.

    1. Mark Fuckerburg Zucks

      I disagree completely. If you plan on retiring then you should put your money away to prepare. It’s not anyone’s responsibility to pay what you decided took a backseat to other expenses. Retirement and savings has to be a priority. If we all saved a few months expenses, then this Corona mess wouldn’t have caused so much economic damage. We are responsible for ourselves ultimately.

  9. Saying that a self-employed person paying the full 12.4% is unfair because he doesn’t get double the benefits represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the incidence of Social Security taxes. Yes, from a statutory point of view, the employer and the employee each pay 6.2%, but an economist will tell you that no matter who the law says pays the tax, the employee pays *all of it*, because absent the tax the employer would pay higher wages. Bottom line, whether you are self-employed or employed by another, you are paying 12.4%.

    1. There is no evidence to support this. If the tax were eliminated the business would keep the difference. These are not benevolent entities, they are amoral places to extract profit at the expense of everything else.

      To think that the instant a tax gets wiped, the employee would make up the difference is not only unproven is laughable that you would think businesses would actually pass on the money rather than keep it for the owners, shareholders and other executive bonuses.

      1. The only case in which this might be true is if the employee is earning the minimum wage. Otherwise, the wage is set by the market for a given person’s labor. An individual company doesn’t just get to unilaterally decide that the person’s labor is worth less because payroll taxes were reduced.

        Here is an academic study on the incidence of payroll taxes:

        From the abstract: “I find strong evidence that the incidence of payroll taxation was fully on wages, with no effect on employment.”

      2. Mark Fuckerburg Zucks

        There is no evidence to support your claim either. Each business is different. What would you do if you owned a business and that amount was cut from your expenditure?

  10. You mentioned in an aside that the typical S Corp distribution strategy is going away. Can you explain or point me to a place where I can learn more? As an S Corp owner using this strategy (conservatively) I’m very curious!

      1. Awesome, thanks Sam. Any tax pro recommendations? I’ve had bad experiences two years in a row. I’m a former Bay Area resident now living in Costa Rica. Thanks for all the thoughtful essays!

  11. I’ve written a post on my blog comparing Uncle Sam to Bernie Madoff and Social Security to a giant Ponzi scheme. The problem is that unlike the Madoff scheme where investors were voluntarily giving the money to invest, here it is a forced issue that you can’t opt out of.

    Basically Social Security is similar to a pyramid scheme as it relies on a large basis (current workforce) to support the top (retired beneficiaries). Unfortunately the base can only get so big and only way is to throw more good money after bad (which apparently they are trying to do) or severely reduce benefits.

    I personally do not trust the government to handle anything well. In my retirement plans I do not include Social Security calculations. Do I believe that there will be some benefits? Yes, but I will consider that a bonus and not something I would stake my retirement on.

    There have been previous posts about the social security bend points where the value you get from social security drastically diminishes as you progress from the first bend point and beyond.

    1. Do you trust them to handle the military well?

      The amount of our taxes that go to SS is a heck whole less than the military. Seems we need to get our priorities straight as a country.

    2. It’s worth remembering that the government jacked up the FICA taxes in the early 80s and ran a multi-trillion dollar a surplus in social security. What did they do with this surplus? They spent it-mostly on the illegal wars like Iraq. Before anyone talks about cutting SS, let’s talk about ending the wars.

      1. This is quite a profound analysis. How was the war illegal again? How did that lead to the current issues we face? I mean your comments read like you took an economics course at Trump University. Did you?

        1. Afghanistan and Iraq have cost over 2.5 trillion-roughly the same as the SS trust fund. The government used the surplus of the fund to pay for these wars rather than have to borrow or raise taxes. The surplus should have been saved and invested. As to the illegality of Iraq-I need only refer to international law and how the war had no basis in defense. No Wmds and no threat to our country. All lies. And now the same people want to cut our SS and fight more wars.

            1. “However, current federal budget policies treat the surplus of trust fund revenues over expenditures, and the interest received by the trust funds, as part of the unified surplus.”

              “The $3 trillion of assets in the trust funds represent the acumulated surpluses of their operations with interest. However, the money has been spent or returned to taxpayers and not saved, at least not by the federal government. ”


    3. Almost impossible to argue with a comment as misguided as this one.. although it unfortunately does represent way too many people’s uneducated views. Learn your history, look at why SS came about in the first place and what it has meant for tens of millions Americans over the last 8 decades. Simple tweaks like not capping SS wages and making folks who live entirely on dividends or cap gains pay in would dramatically reduce or even (by some estimates) eliminate the deficit in the plan. I’ve earned over the cap for the last 15 years and would happily pay more into it to keep it solvent.

      1. I would also not complain if my “over the cap” earned income were contributing to social security. Removing that cap would probably go a long way to sustaining SS.
        Not sure I agree about taxing investment income, because that money is always at risk. If I’m getting taxed during the good years then I shouldn’t government share my losses in bad years, by paying me money back? One might argue that it was government that contributed to the losses through unwise trade policies and regulations.
        But that opens a whole new can of worms-what would be considered an “investment?” Would lottery tickets and roulette wheel spins count?

  12. They’ll tax Roth IRA withdrawals before they cut SS payments, and they will eventually tax Roth IRA withdrawals.

    1. Probably not. It’s already been taxed and the government kinda likes people having savings they can’t readily get at. Not because they are happy for you, of course, but because it is useful to them as how else could they keep selling debt?)

      If you do the math, you’ll find a Roth offers no real tax savings over a pre-tax retirement account because, although it is paying less taxes, it is paying them earlier, when the money is worth more. The main advantage is in freeing you up from having to take RMDs later on that are larger than you want. Also, it provides a little peace of mind in case they decide to pop the top brackets back up to 90% or some such.

      Again, if your income will be lower in retirement, use pre-tax accounts. If it will be higher (especially as investments grow) you want the Roths.

  13. Thanks for this article, Sam. Another consideration is the difference between having two parents working with each paying maximum social security tax, and having one be a stay-at-home parent and only paying maximum SS tax on a single income. If the incomes of the two are pretty different, say $500k and $150k, the effective marginal rate on the $150k income is through the roof considering federal and state income taxes, plus SS/Medicare taxes. Talk about a disincentive to work! (And talk about first-world problems that would be good to have!) I wonder how many couples have done this math and determined being a stay-at-home parent is best.

    1. Planning to resign next year for the same reason, plus the fact that my kids need more attention, and we do not have any close family to help

    2. Done the math and she still wants to work. She enjoys the work, appreciates the break, and $.50 per dollar is still $.50, so we’ll take it. If she can go work and feel good about her efforts for 5 hours a week and earn some money along the way, even at a heavily taxed rate, why not? Its a win-win in our assessment.

      And I’d rather the $6k be in the bank at the end of the year than not.

      1. Haha Jeff, I can totally related. Been stringing along for years even with the high tax rate. I can totally see one continue to work as long as it’s a rewarding experience. After all, it’s not so easy to return if you have a large gap. And the current decision can have lasting impact

  14. As someone who exceeded the Social Security maximum income every year of my 38 year career I don’t think there is any chance of my generation not getting all or almost all of our benefits from the system. The reason is pretty simple, Boomers vote. GenX, Millenials and other younger generations account for about the same amount of votes combined as Boomers represent by themselves. And since they are getting old enough to think about retirement Gen X’rs will be voting along the same lines as Boomers by the time the trust fund depletes. I am pretty sure it will be the generations after X that will see the Draconian cuts to their benefits or extension of retirement ages. By contributing the max amount my wife and I will collect nearly 70K when I start taking Social Security in 2025. Which alone would be plenty to live an upper middle class lifestyle in rural America. In our case we could easily fund our retirement out of our investments but I suspect we’ll never have to touch those and will just be handing them down to our three grown kids.

      1. Yes, but Steveark’s point: they don’t vote anywhere nearly as much as Boomers. When the decision is made to cut SS benefits (which eventually, it must be so) it won’t be the Boomers or Gen X’s experiencing the cuts.

  15. The government needs to address the problems with Social Security. They can help secure the system by raising the maximum amount. There will always be people that will need help from Social Security and raising the maximum is one way to do that. I don’t believe people making large salaries will be hurt but people with lower paying jobs will need the help as they retire. Yes it is nice to get the extra money in your paycheck after you reach the maximum, which I did for a few years, but I would rather have seen it secure our system for our kids and grandkids.

  16. Sam, what many people fail to realize is that if you do decide to collect your social security benefits while still working, or earning other types of qualified earned income, those benefits turn into a self-licking ice cream cone! I believe it’s a tiered tax bracket, but at some point, your social security benefit distributions (which are supposed to be tax exempt) shift into the taxable income column at a certain income level. I just went through this same situation w/ my Father’s retirement planning… withdrawing too much from his IRA could potentially push him into the next higher tax bracket, given the SSA benefits he is collecting as well. It’s almost as if the Government is penalizing you for collecting your benefits ~ crazy.

  17. Christine Minasian

    They have continued to raise the income limit for SS since we’ve been working the last 30 plus years! The way it is going…our poor children will be working to pay the income of older generations and all the increased taxes. We will become like Europe where you feel like you’re beating your head against the wall with all of these taxes.

    1. The younger generation will be working to pay off their own student debt and for the older generations failure to act on climate change.

  18. I’m for social security. It’s helpful if you don’t have much savings. Lots of people will be out on the street without this safety net. IMO, we should increase the maximum taxable amount a lot more. Why not push the cap up to $500,000 or even $5,000,000?

    My father in law receives some social security benefits. He doesn’t need it so he uses it as a donation fund. I hope to do the same someday.

  19. Sam I have to disagrees, the government will never cut social security as it would be political suicide. Older people have always been the largest voting block and I don’t see that changing.

    1. Will,
      Totally agree. But if they choose to not raise the benefit distribution then the cost of annual distribution will be cut through natural inflationary pressures. Thereby cutting without cutting.

  20. Great article Sam,

    I always look forward to the time of year when I have maxed out my OASDI (Social Security Tax witholding). It feels like a bonus at the end of the year! Looks like that will be later in 2020. Too bad!

    I do respectfully disagree with the mindset to “not expect Social Security benefits”. I do think everyone should plan for this unfortunate scenario, however, I have heard this so much in the financial planning mantras that I am concerned that if we as the younger generations make it clear that this is the hive thinking, the government will be less inclined to make sure we receive the maximum possible of what is due to us. I don”t want the government to get the sense that they have a get out of jail free card on this one. But I will still silently plan for the worst.

    – R

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