More than a Paycheck:News from the War Tax Resistance Movement

February 1997
[VIth International Conference] [IRS Orders Withholding at Highest Rate] [Counseling Notes]
[Legislative Updates] [Resources] [WTR Ideas and Actions] [NWTRCC Business]
[Local Group Reports] [Perspective] [About More than A Paycheck]

VIth International Conference on Peace
Tax Campaigns and War Tax Resistance

By Susan Balzer, Hesston, KS
Nearly ninety people from sixteen countries attended the Taxes for Peace Not War conference at High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, England, on November 29 to December 1. Fifty hailed from England, Scotland and Wales. Russia and nine other European countries, as well as India, Palestine, Canada, Honduras, and the USA were represented by one or more persons. Americans attending included David and Miyoko Bassett and Marian Franz, leaders in the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, Paul Sheldon, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Quakers, Mary Loehr, Ithaca (NY) War Tax Resistance, and myself, Susan Balzer, who, along with Cesar Flores of Honduras, was supported by NWTRCC. The conference included a strong Quaker presence as well as members of the Protestant Churches of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany; Mennonites, Anglicans, and Catholics; and Gandhian, philosophical, and political peace leaders.

Keynote speaker, Erik Hummels from the Netherlands, defined peace as "a dynamic process of cooperation among people which includes human rights, economic justice, and the absence of situations that can lead to war." Hummels and other speakers reported on the peace tax legislation proposals in various countries and expressed the hope that if one country passes a peace tax bill, the other countries will soon follow. David Bassett said that the peace tax issue is a central issue for our time, comparable to the issue of slavery.

Barbara Forbes, Saturday's keynote speaker, spoke on "Developments in Common European Security." She said that the European Common Market's "security" policy has become a defense policy, which has failed in the former Yugoslavia. "British Quakers don't want to discuss whether a single European army is any better than fifteen separate ones!" one speaker emphasized. Conferees could choose three of twelve workshops, which included: war tax resistance issues, relations with the churches, lobbying international organizations, new actions, court cases, social change and empowerment, reflecting on inspiring texts, and using email and PeaceNet.

War tax resisters constitute a very small minority of pacifists, even within peace churches. So an international conference focused on peace tax concerns met an important goal: to see that we are not alone.

CPTI Biennial Assembly
Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI) met for business and decided to apply to become a non-governmental organization (NGO) to relate to the United Nations.

CPTI, which was formed at the international conference in Belgium in 1992, also made plans to send representatives who could give the peace testimony to thousands of church delegates at the Second European Ecumenical Assembly on Reconciliation at Graz, Austria, in June, 1997.

International Project
The conference chose the Kosovo Peace Embassy as its international project. Donations will go to support the work of monitoring human rights and resolving conflicts in the Kosovo province of the former Yugoslavia. (Note: We will have further information on this international project in an upcoming newsletter.)

The previous two-year project was the international peace teams project of War Resisters International, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, and Peace Brigades International, specifically their work in Chechnya.

Next International Conference
Arya Bhardwaj, founder of Gandhi-in-Action, invited the international conference to meet in India in 1988. The earlier offer from Elias Rishmawi was withdrawn because of the continued instability in Palestine. "We are back to the era of South Africa," he said, lamenting the laws permitting Israeli occupation.

The conference readily accepted the invitation to come to the United States in 2000. The Peace Tax Fund Campaign will be the primary planners, along with NWTRCC.

The conferees decided to accept the invitation to meet in New Delhi at the end of December, 1998. The Indian location will give a non-western flavor to the conference, and may permit participation from Australians, New Zealanders, Japanese, and others who have not attended the first six European-based conferences.

Symbolic Action for Prisoners of Conscience
Prisoners for Peace Day was observed on Sunday. Names and brief stories of persons imprisoned in nine of the countries represented at the international conference were displayed on rainbow-colored banners. These persons and others who have suffered for being true to their conscientious objection to war were remembered. On December 2, I joined a group of six international conferees to personally deliver the colored banners to the appropriate embassies, along with a letter and the spoken message: "It is wrong to imprison people for their conscientious objection to war."

Before and After
Before the conference I was a guest of Diane Skidmore and five of her children in her two bedroom flat in southwest London. We had interesting discussions about parenting, education, tolerance, religion, and peace activism. I saw some of the tourist sites in London, became proficient in getting around by using buses and the tube, and began to get an ear for the British pronunciation of English. For my children's sake, I hunted up the original Hard Rock Cafe, which had a sign at the entry: No nukes allowed.

Phil Rimmer led half a dozen of us in a walking tour, the highlight of which was a two hour visit to Parliament with Neil Gerrard, East London MP.

After the conference, I made Mennonite connections, staying with Alan and Eleanor Kreider at Oxford. They teach at a Baptist college at Oxford University and lead Anabaptist study groups throughout central and southern England.

I spent a relaxing day at Bournesmouth, walking along the beach of this south coast resort city. Another fun experience was attending Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" at Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. From museums I learned some of the history of England. I was amazed by the strong Roman influence.

I didn't get "done" seeing England. I found people to be friendlier and the weather to be nicer than I was told to expect. I would go again. I even found a cousin (2nd cousin on my father's side) who with her husband was doing sabbatical study at Oxford. It's a small world after all!

Thank you to all who support NWTRCC for the opportunity you gave me to represent you in England.

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IRS Orders Withholding at Highest Rate
In mid-December, 1996 the IRS ordered the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) to start withholding from the pay of war tax resister Virginia Druhe at the highest possible rate (single, no exemptions). Virginia works in the AFSC office in St. Louis, MO along with Bill Ramsey, who faced the same situation last year. Both have been war tax resisters for many years, claiming extra allowances on their W-4 forms to avoid withholding from their paychecks.

The AFSC policy on withholding is to set aside the military percentage of the withheld taxes, as determined by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (about 47%), and put it into an escrow account. They then send the remaining portion to the IRS. Both the organization and individual members of the AFSC Board risk possible civil penalties (100% of the withheld taxes not turned over, an additional 15% penalty, and interest), as well as the highly unlikely possibility of criminal penalties.

The AFSC is to be commended for going further in supporting their war tax resisting employees than most organizations are willing to go. However, since a portion of any amount of money sent into the IRS is used for military spending, Virginia is asking the AFSC to take a step further and to refuse to send the IRS any of her withheld taxes. The Board will be reviewing her request.

The AFSC could potentially have a good court case on the issue of withholding using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They won a case on withholding at the district court level in the 1970's. It was overturned by the Supreme Court, but on procedural grounds, not the substance of the case. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act could strengthen the arguments raised at that time, and the procedural problems could be avoided.

For more information, contact Virginia Druhe, 1827 N. 18th, St. Louis, MO, 63106, or email to her attention:

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Counseling Notes
To figure out how much you can earn before owing income taxes for 1997, find your category, multiply the personal exemption by the number of dependents you can claim, then add your standard deduction. For example, if you are a head of household with two children, you would add $5,300 ($2,650 x 2) to $6,050, equaling $11,350. Below this amount you would owe no income taxes for the year. Please be aware that this applies to income taxes only; Social Security taxes follow a different formula.

Category   Standard Deduction      Personal Exemption   
Married, filing jointly$6,900 "
Married, filing separately$3,450 "
Head of household$6,050"

There is an additional personal exemption for those over 65 and those who are blind: $800 for those who are married, filing jointly; $1,000 for head of household or single (same figures as 1996).

A district court ruled that the IRS could not levy a spouse's earnings for the tax debt of her husband, even though they lived in a community property state, because they had entered into a prenuptial agreement stating that each party's future earnings would be their own. This is a simple summary of a complex case, but indicates that prenuptial agreements might be a strategy to explore for WTRs planning to get married in community property states.

In another case, the tax court said that erroneous legal advice given by employees of the IRS generally is not binding on the IRS. And a district court held that "an accountant's advice is not the type of 'technical advice' that can serve as a basis upon which a taxpayer can reasonably rely" regarding worker misclassification. Guess you can't count on anyone these days!

Although we are unaware of any specific changes in the tax law about the status of clergy as independent contractors, we've heard from some Catholic priests that they are being reclassified as employees by the people who pay them. We're wondering if this is a trend or not. If you are a member of the clergy or know of any clergy who are being reclassified as employees, please contact the NWTRCC office.

War tax resisters Elizabeth Claggett-Borne and Jonathan Vogel- Borne of Cambridge, MA were perplexed recently when they received a copy of a notice of levy which had been sent by the IRS to the company that holds their home mortgage. Neither they nor NWTRCC had heard of such a thing before. The lien process gives the IRS the power to seize "property and rights to property" belonging to the resister, but not to take property belonging to another party, even if it was paid to them by the resister. The mortgage company, also perplexed, informed the IRS that they had made a mistake, which the IRS subsequently acknowledged.

A Boston WTR received notice of intent to levy on an IRA. She called the IRS and asked about their policy of not seizing pension money. They said they did it as a last resort in situations where individuals are non-cooperative, which certainly applied in her case. She contacted the fund holding her IRA, asked for the money back, and got it all! Technically the fund should have frozen her assets and honored the levy before returning any leftover money to her. Sometimes confusion works in our favor.

A college student wishing to engage in telephone tax resistance searched her phone bill for a listing of the federal excise tax but couldn't find it. She checked with the customer service department of her phone company and they assured her that she is not charged a federal tax. They were not clear why this was the case, but the student's assumption is that it's because the phone is in a dormitory. Does anyone else have experience with dormitory phones?

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Legislative Updates
On November 20, 1996, Marian Franz of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (NCPTF) led a delegation of seven representatives of religious organizations to a meeting at the White House. They had an hour-long discussion on conscientious objection to military taxes with a member of the White House Counsel's Office.

The main focus of the meeting was the mechanics of the PTF Bill and why such a Bill is needed. The Campaign supporters told of individuals and organizations who have suffered punitive actions from the IRS for their stands of conscience.

The group also discussed how the President might help establish a PTF Bill. The White house official asked for another meeting after the PTF Bill has been redrafted to make it more clearly related to religious freedom.

Marian Franz credited President Clinton's commitment to religious liberty as well as support from members of the Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion, a powerful coalition of diverse organizations advocating for religious freedom, for making the meeting possible.

For more information, contact the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, 2121 Decatur Place NW, Washington, DC 20008-1923, (202)483-3751, (888)732-2382, email:, Web:

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War tax resister Don Mosley of Jubilee Partners in Georgia has written a book titled, With Our Own Eyes, the story of one Christian's response to war, racism, and oppression. It includes a couple of chapters detailing his experiences with the IRS and the time he spent in jail in 1989 for refusing to turn records over to them. It was published in 1996 by Herald Press, Scottdale, PA, 15683. For ordering information, contact the publisher, or Don Mosley, Jubilee Partners, Box 68, Comer, GA, 30629, (706)783-5131.

War tax resister Bill Ramsey writes about his stand of religious conscience in "Awaiting the Next Bend: A Chronical of War Tax Refusal" in the third issue of the International Journal of Nonviolence, published by Nonviolence International (NI). This double issue is focused on spirituality and nonviolence. It is available for $8 from NI, PO Box 39127, Friendship Station, Washington, D.C., 20016 (email:

Peace News is an international monthly published in Great Britain which focuses on nonviolent movements. Their November, 1996 issue has a special feature on war tax resistance, including a history of the strategy from Roman times to the present, stories of specific actions in various countries, and a review of WTR campaigns around the world. It is available from Peace News, 5 Caledonian Rd., London N1 9DY, Britain, email:, Web:

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War Tax Resistance Ideas & Actions
WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS: "A Matter of Conscience"
Turning Tide Productions in western Massachusetts is doing the final editing on a 2-hour documentary about the house seizure and occupation in Colrain, MA. It is scheduled to preview on the Cinemax Cable Channel on April 15. Robbie Leppzer, the filmmaker, is then planning to take it on a national tour. He will be looking for local groups to help organize screenings in their communities, so stay tuned for details.

PETALUMA, CA: Taxes for Future Generations
Andrew Kimes is circulating a proposal for a "real world order." He says, in part, "Take a portion of your federal tax payment and donate it to an appropriate cause ($50 for example). Deduct this from your payment to the government, and write and explain why you are taking this action. . . . Make sure the amount you are dealing with is appropriate for you. . . Your money is working where you want it to. . . the risk is only having to pay it back plus penalties. Send a copy of your letter to us so we can count all participants. Then we can demonstrate a growing national movement to stop funding unhumane programs. This way we will not stand alone in our effort isolated by our particular affiliations or fears. . . This is a great funding vehicle for all our loved causes. Each group can collect these donations and publish members' statements to show the rising tide."

For Andrew's complete statement, contact him at PO Box 2916, Petaluma, CA, 94952, (707)775-3088.

VERNONIA, OR: Employer Protests
Ed Martiszus continues his protests at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, OR where he worked as a nurse and had taxes sent to the IRS against his wishes. He regularly leaflets in front of the hospital, most recently regarding the World Court decision on nuclear weapons. He was not allowed in the hospital to leaflet, but some of the other nurses took pamphlets in for him. Ed writes frequent letters to hospital officers about their complicity in paying for nuclear weapons. Recently the Hospital's lawyer sent Ed a letter demanding that he stop slandering the Hospital and its CEO. The lawyer threatened, "Any entry by you onto Legacy Health System property, unless it is connected with a legitimate need for medical care, will be considered a trespass."

BRIDPORT, VT: The Society of Ushers
Richard Duffee is initiating an international organization of egalitarian pacifists who want to increase their ability to live consistently with their beliefs. He calls the group The Society of Ushers, which signifies their role in assisting others to find a place of repose, i.e. a mode of life which can be equitably maintained without conflict.

Richard has been researching the "peacefulness" of various countries in the world, seeking a home with low military spending, few human rights violations, conscientious objector status for military service, and a moderate per capita income.

He envisions members of the Society negotiating an arrangement with such a country where they would donate any income exceeding the world gross product per capita, which he estimates at $4,000 per year, to a mutually agreed socially beneficial organization, and devote their work time to projects benefiting citizens with less than the average world income. In return, no member would be required to pay taxes to support the military, and each would be exempt from military service.

For more information, contact Richard Duffee at: Box 390G, RR1, Bridport, VT, 05734, (802)758-9249, email:

MONROE, ME: Media Strategizing
Karen Marysdaughter, NWTRCC Coordinator, decided last tax season to do a pilot project on local media work. With a focus on her redirection of refused tax money to the Maine War Tax Funds for Life, she contacted about twelve media outlets in late February. This resulted in a story on TV and on a community radio station in March. Karen then contacted a couple of grassroots groups and offered to make grants to them of $200 each from her tax money, with the provision that they accept the money publicly.

One group readily agreed. The other, a rural education project made up primarily of low income women, was hesitant at first. They invited Karen to come speak about war tax resistance and then debated whether or not they wanted their name associated with WTR. It was a fascinating and very educational process! Eventually they agreed to publicly accept the money. Karen again contacted the local media about the donations during the week prior to Tax Day, which resulted in two TV stories, a radio story, and a newspaper photo.

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NWTRCC Business
In September, 1996, NWTRCC sent questionnaires to eighty religious and/or progressive organizations regarding their participation in war tax resistance activities. Forty-one of the groups responded. Seven of those had only volunteers. Of the remaining 34 groups, 31 of them had taken some action on the issue sometime in the last 8 years.

Actions taken by organizations included: making statements of support (17), publicizing WTR (21), informing workers about legal ways to reduce tax liabilities (9), supporting Peace Tax Fund legislation (21), cooperating with the IRS under protest (6), setting up in-kind payment plans and benefit arrangements for WTR workers to reduce their tax liability (8), only questioning the number of exemptions claimed on W-4 forms when required to by law (8), publicly accepting refused tax money when granted (12), giving no more information or money to the IRS than what was required by law (11), going to court with the IRS (2), and sending "letters of anguish" with each quarterly payment of income tax withholding (1).

Civil disobedience actions taken included: engaging in telephone tax resistance (11), engaging in resistance of corporate taxes (2), supporting W-4 resistance on the part of workers (4), refusing to turn over some or all of required withholding from workers (6), refusing to honor levies on workers' pay (6), paying workers under the table (5), treating an employee as an independent contractor (6), not reporting worker earnings to the IRS (1), adjusting salary to just below taxable levels from year to year (1), and, when garnishment seems imminent, paying employee at beginning of pay period rather than end (1).

Nine organizations reported having a policy in regards to war tax resistance. Sixteen of them consulted with other groups, NWTRCC, attorneys, or accountants in choosing their course of action. One group claimed to have consulted with "the Lord;" however, they did not provide written documentation.

NWTRCC has had the unbelievably good fortune for the last few years to have Susan Quinlan of Northern California WTR volunteer her time and talents for the design and layout of our newsletter. She has given us a quality of work we would be hard-pressed to pay for. We continually receive compliments on the attractiveness and readability of "More Than a Paycheck."

Meanwhile, our Coordinator has been holding her breath, wondering how long our luck could last. Alas, the dreaded call came into the office: Susan announced plans to return to college. So, folks, we have until next fall to find someone to fill Susan's shoes. What do we need? A person with one day to volunteer every other month, a good eye for design and layout, and access to a Macintosh computer. (Karen Marydaughter provides the text on a disc, and the finished copy is sent to Jerry Chernow in Madison, WI for printing.) Susan is willing to help with orientation, which she could do in person for someone in the Bay area, the Seattle area, or the Washington, D.C. area.

If you are interested, please contact the NWTRCC office ASAP.

Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia (adminstrators of the national Conscience and Military Tax Campaign Escrow Fund) will hostess NWTRCC's next meeting, May 2-4, 1997. Seattle was NWTRCC's home before it moved to Maine, so we're looking forward to seeing some old friends, as well as meeting new ones. NWTRCC business will fall on Friday evening, May 2nd and Sunday morning May 4th; Saturday, May 3rd will be a regional gathering day, with workshops and discussions on various WTR topics. People are welcome for the whole weekend or any part thereof.

People in Washington and the surrounding states will receive registration information in late March. Others who wish to attend from outside the region should contact the NWTRCC office ASAP. We keep an eye out for good airfares and will let folks know about them if you ask us to do so.

Simple food and accomodations will be provided. There will be no cost for the weekend, but we will pass the hat.

Every year at our May meeting we select a few new Administrative Committee members. Six people (four full members and two alternates) work closely with the Coordinator between national meetings, keep updated on her work by phone and mail, and consult with her when issues need clarifying.

NWTRCC pays the transportation costs of full members, or alternates filling in for full members, to national meetings. They meet all day on the Friday before Coordinating Committee meetings, which are always the first full weekends in May and November. Full members serve for two years; alternates serve for one year and often move into full positions for a term. Terms start on June 1st.

For purposes of geographical balance, we will especially, but not exclusively, be looking for new people from the northeast, the southwest, and the midwest. Please contact the office by the end of February if you are interested.

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Local Group Reports
"Tax Resistance into the 21st Century" is the theme of the 4th annual Midwest War Tax Resisters Gathering, February 21-23, 1997 at the Institute of Cultural Affiars in Chicago, IL. Topics include: war tax resistance and family life, legal consequences for war tax resistance, building community as war tax resisters, and alternative employment/alternative investments. For more information and a registration form, contact Chicago Area War Tax Resisters, 1460 W. Carmen #2, Chicago, IL, 60640, 312/784-8065, email:

The Milwaukee War Tax Resistance group held their annual Boston Tea Party in front of the IRS office on December 13th, 1996. Only two people picketed and leafletted, but members of the group donated a total of $1,700 to their Alternative Life Fund. Three local WTRs have had levy notices served at their places of employment and are working for salaries below the levy amount in order to continue their WTR. The money they do not accept on their salaries is used to help a Head Start program and a shelter for juveniles in Milwaukee.

Members of Pioneer Valley WTR presented a war tax resistance clinic on November 1st, 1996, at Mt. Toby Friends Meeting in Leverett, MA. After airing the slideshow, "More than a Paycheck", a panel of four people shared their thoughts and experiences. Wally Nelson asked, "Why would I pay? Why would I pay for what I don't want?" He stressed the government's hoarding for the military; the government does have some good programs, but they are implemented only after the military is taken care of. Wally asked, "What moves the government? The government moves on defense, not love, caring or sharing. Wally summed it up with, "I'm not interested."

Tom Wilson asked, "Why support nuclear technology?" The government is the nuclear supporter, and the IRS is in collusion with the state. He finds it difficult to understand why anyone would send money to Washington. Tom also expressed his anger over having his professional dentistry license revoked for his political beliefs. He urged people to contribute money locally, and to give precedence to the trickle UP theory.

Dvora Cohen discussed the problem of having high ideals vs. reasonable expectations, resulting in a feeling of, "I don't do enough".

Joe Toritto made the connection between tax resistance, fidelity to God, and the Catholic faith. He believes in living out his beliefs as a concientious objector to war taxes. Work is central to life, not tangential. He feels the need to resist taxes and do what he loves, while still remaining below taxable income. After the panel, small groups discussed how open participants would be about war tax resistance, how far they would go, and how to be more effective. (Thanks to Michelle DePesa for taking notes for this report.)

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PERSPECTIVE: How About a C.O. Tax Credit?
By Robert Randall
Robert asked the participants at the Birmingham Coordinating Committee meeting last November and the on-line WTR discussion group to consider other possible legislative remedies for conscientious objectors to war taxes. Here's his proposal.

Why not push for a simple tax credit for those conscientious objectors who redirect their money?

As with most government tax expenditures, there would be two parts to this: first, the taxpayer would have to establish eligibility for taking the credit. This would be the part of the law which requires certification as a conscientious objector (C.O.) as in current law and court decisions. It could be done by the IRS or by the Selective Service System if Congress refuses to shut down that agency (the latter would give the SSS something to do which would also educate local boards about C.O. status should the SSS ever be reactiviated); most likely it would be an IRS function utilizing a C.O. definition as envisioned in current Peace Tax Fund legislation.

The second part would be establishing the amount of the credit. The ideal would be for those who pass the criteria to be able to take as a C.O. tax credit any amount contributed to charitable or governmental (probably limited to federal) organizations and agencies. More likely only the latter would be acceptable to Congress.

In effect, C.O.'s could reduce their taxes owed by an amount equal to any monies sent to a federal government agency or program. If a correlation to alternative service provisions in the SSS law is made, we could argue for adding approved non -governmental organizations and programs -- although then the issue of who approves would arise and the need for a new bureaucracy would exist.

By being able to dollar-for-dollar convert general fund taxes to money paid to specific federal agencies and programs (we can nearly all find something which would not be in violation of our consciences), the war tax resister (WTR) can be certain that her or his money is not going to war. And the concept of federal tax credits for certain types of expenditures is so embedded in tax law that the Congress cannot argue that this is relinquishing its constitutional obligation to expend revenue.

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About More than a Paycheck
More Than a Paycheck is a publication of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC), a clearinghouse and resource center for the conscientious war tax resistance movement in the United States. NWTRCC is a coalition of local, regional and national affiliate groups working on war tax related issues.

NWTRCC sees poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, economic exploitation, and environmental destruction as integrally linked with the militarism which we abhor. Through the redirection of our tax dollars, NWTRCC members contribute directly to the struggle for peace and justice for all.

Hard copy subscriptions to More Than a Paycheck (6 issues per year) are available for $10 per year. Editor: Karen Marysdaughter.

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