Starting a company in the USA – the essential checklist


Starting a company in the USA – the essential checklist

Did you know that the United States is home to over 30 million small businesses? Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or an established business owner looking to expand, starting a company in the USA can be a lucrative and rewarding venture. However, navigating the complexities of the American business landscape requires careful planning and attention to detail. That’s why we’ve put together this essential checklist to guide you through the process and set you up for success.

Key Takeaways:

  • Starting a company in the USA can be a lucrative opportunity, with over 30 million small businesses currently operating in the country.
  • Navigating the American business landscape requires careful planning and attention to detail.
  • This essential checklist will guide you through the key steps and considerations for starting a company in the USA.
  • From determining the business structure to understanding tax obligations and compliance, each step is crucial for a smooth and effective process.
  • Developing a comprehensive business plan, securing necessary licenses and permits, and establishing an online presence are also essential for success.

Determine the business structure

When starting a company, one of the crucial decisions you need to make is determining the right business structure. The business structure you choose will have significant implications for your company’s operational, legal, and financial aspects. Let’s explore the available options and help you make an informed decision.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest and most common business structure, especially for small businesses. As a sole proprietor, you have complete control over your business and its decision-making. You operate as an individual and are personally responsible for all business liabilities and debts.


If you are starting a company with one or more partners, a partnership structure might be suitable. In a partnership, each partner contributes to the business’s operations, and they share the profits, losses, and liabilities according to the partnership agreement. There are two main types of partnerships: general partnerships and limited partnerships.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC is a popular choice for many entrepreneurs due to its flexibility and limited liability protection. As the name suggests, the owners of an LLC have limited personal liability for the company’s debts and obligations. It combines the benefits of a corporation’s liability protection with the operational flexibility and tax advantages of a partnership or sole proprietorship.


If you plan to raise capital through investors or take your company public in the future, forming a corporation may be appropriate. A corporation is a separate legal entity, distinct from its owners (shareholders). It offers limited liability protection, allows for the issuance of stock, and has complex governance structures. There are different types of corporations, such as C corporations and S corporations, each with its advantages and requirements.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the different business structures, it’s crucial to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each option in relation to your goals, industry, and long-term plans. Consulting with a legal or financial professional can help you determine the most suitable business structure for your company and ensure compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.

Comparison of Business Structures

Business Structure Advantages Disadvantages
Sole Proprietorship
  • Easy to set up and manage
  • Complete control and decision-making power
  • Minimal compliance requirements
  • Unlimited personal liability
  • Difficulty in raising capital
  • Difficulties in business continuity
  • Shared responsibilities and resources
  • Ease of formation and management
  • Ability to combine complementary skills
  • Unlimited personal liability
  • Potential for disputes among partners
  • Partners are jointly and severally liable
  • Limited personal liability
  • Flexible management structure
  • Pass-through taxation
  • More administrative requirements than sole proprietorship
  • Complexity in some states
  • Potentially higher tax obligations
  • Limited personal liability for shareholders
  • Ability to raise capital through the sale of stock
  • Perpetual existence
  • Complex legal requirements and formalities
  • Double taxation for C corporations
  • More expensive to establish and maintain

Secure your Employer Identification Number (EIN)

When starting a company in the USA, one crucial step is to secure your Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). An EIN is a unique identifier that allows the IRS to track your company’s tax obligations and ensure compliance.

Obtaining an EIN is essential for various reasons. Firstly, it is required if you plan to hire employees, as it enables you to withhold and remit payroll taxes. Additionally, an EIN is necessary when filing business tax returns and opening a business bank account.

The application process for an EIN is straightforward. You can apply online through the IRS website or submit a paper application via mail or fax. When applying, you will need to provide information about your company, such as its legal name, business structure, and the responsible party’s details.

How to apply for an EIN:

  1. Visit the IRS website or complete Form SS-4 if applying by mail or fax.
  2. Provide accurate and complete information about your company.
  3. Specify the reason for applying, such as starting a new business or hiring employees.
  4. Submit the application and wait for the IRS to process it.
  5. Once approved, you will receive your EIN, which you can begin using immediately.

It’s worth noting that an EIN is unique to your company and should not be shared or used by any other entity. Keep your EIN confidential to prevent identity theft or fraudulent activities.

Having an EIN not only fulfills your tax obligations but also improves your company’s credibility and professionalism. It demonstrates that your business is legitimate and properly registered with the IRS.

Register your company with the state

Once you have determined the most suitable business structure for your company, the next step is to register it with the appropriate state authorities. Registering your company is a crucial legal requirement that establishes your business as a separate legal entity and enables you to operate it legally within your chosen jurisdiction.

Registering a company involves several key steps, including the submission of necessary documents, payment of fees, and compliance with specific state requirements. The process may vary slightly from state to state, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the specific registration process in your chosen state.

To help you navigate the registration process smoothly, here are the general steps you should follow:

  1. Choose a business name: Select a unique and appropriate name for your company. Conduct a thorough search to ensure that the chosen name is not already in use or trademarked by another entity.
  2. File the Articles of Incorporation/Formation: Prepare and file the necessary documents with the state authorities. These documents typically include information such as the company name, address, business purpose, and details of the registered agent.
  3. Pay the registration fees: Different states have different registration fees. Ensure that you pay the required fees promptly to complete the registration process.
  4. Obtain any necessary licenses or permits: Depending on your business activities, you may need to obtain additional licenses or permits from the state or local authorities. Research and identify the specific licenses or permits required for your company.
  5. Comply with state requirements: Each state has specific requirements that businesses must fulfill to remain compliant. These requirements may include annual filings, maintaining certain records, and fulfilling tax obligations. Stay up-to-date with the ongoing compliance obligations and fulfill them promptly.

Registering your company with the state provides several benefits, including legal protection, credibility, and access to certain business opportunities. It also allows you to open a business bank account, apply for business loans, and enter into contracts on behalf of your company.

Registering a Company Comparison Table

State Registration Process Fees Additional Requirements
California File the Articles of Incorporation with the California Secretary of State. Obtain an EIN from the IRS. $125 filing fee + $800 minimum franchise tax Additional city or county business licenses may be required.
New York File the Articles of Organization/Incorporation with the New York Department of State. Obtain an EIN from the IRS. $200 filing fee Appointment of a registered agent is required.
Texas File the Certificate of Formation with the Texas Secretary of State. Obtain an EIN from the IRS. $300 filing fee No state-level additional requirements.

As each state has its own registration requirements and fees, it’s essential to research and understand the specific process for your chosen state. The table above provides a comparison of the registration process, fees, and additional requirements for three popular states: California, New York, and Texas.

By following the registration process and fulfilling all requirements, you can successfully register your company with the state and ensure its legitimacy and compliance with state laws. This step is an important milestone in establishing and growing your business presence.

Obtain necessary licenses and permits

When starting a company in the UK, it is essential to obtain the necessary licenses and permits to operate legally and ensure compliance with relevant regulations. These licenses and permits vary depending on the nature of your business and the industry you are entering. By obtaining the correct licenses and permits, you can protect your company’s reputation, avoid fines and penalties, and demonstrate your commitment to operating ethically. Here are some common licenses and permits you may need to consider:

1. Business License

A business license is a general license that allows you to legally operate your business. The specific requirements for obtaining a business license vary depending on the location and type of business. To apply for a business license, you will typically need to provide information about your company, such as its name, address, and the nature of your business activities.

2. Professional License

If your business involves providing professional services, such as legal advice, medical services, or financial consulting, you may need to obtain a professional license. This license demonstrates that you have met the necessary qualifications and comply with the industry standards and regulations.

3. Health and Safety Permits

If your business operates in an industry that poses potential health and safety risks, such as food service, construction, or manufacturing, you may need to obtain health and safety permits. These permits ensure that your business follows the necessary regulations to protect the health and safety of employees and customers.

4. Environmental Permits

If your business has the potential to impact the environment, such as through waste disposal or emissions, you may need to obtain environmental permits. These permits ensure that your business complies with environmental regulations and minimizes its environmental footprint.

5. Alcohol or Tobacco Licenses

If your business involves selling alcohol or tobacco products, you will need to obtain the appropriate licenses. These licenses are necessary to comply with the specific regulations and restrictions surrounding the sale and distribution of these controlled substances.

6. Planning and Zoning Permits

If your business involves construction, renovation, or changes to a physical location, you may need to obtain planning and zoning permits. These permits ensure that your business activities align with the local zoning laws and regulations.

Remember, the licenses and permits you require may vary depending on your location and industry. It is important to research the specific requirements and regulations applicable to your business to ensure you obtain the necessary licenses and permits before starting operations.

License/Permit Description Relevant Industries
Business License A general license that allows legal operation of a business All industries
Professional License License for companies providing professional services Legal, medical, financial consulting, etc.
Health and Safety Permits Permits to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations Food service, construction, manufacturing, etc.
Environmental Permits Permits for businesses with potential environmental impact Waste disposal, emissions, etc.
Alcohol or Tobacco Licenses Licenses for businesses selling alcohol or tobacco products Retail, hospitality, etc.
Planning and Zoning Permits Permits for construction or renovation activities Real estate, construction, renovation, etc.

Set up business banking and accounting systems

When starting a company, it’s crucial to separate your personal and business finances. Setting up a dedicated business bank account is an essential step in managing your company’s financial transactions and ensuring proper financial records. Additionally, establishing efficient accounting systems will enable you to track and manage your company’s finances effectively.

Setting up a Business Bank Account

To create a clear distinction between personal and business finances, opening a business bank account is imperative. A business bank account offers several advantages, including:

  • Organized financial transactions and statements
  • Improved accuracy in calculating business expenses, profits, and taxes
  • Separation of personal and business liability
  • Enhanced professionalism and credibility

When selecting a bank for your business account, consider factors such as fees, services, and accessibility. Choose a bank that offers suitable features for your company’s specific requirements.

Once you’ve chosen a bank, gather the necessary documentation to open your business bank account. Requirements may vary among banks, but typically, you’ll need:

  • Business identification documents (e.g., certificate of incorporation, partnership agreement)
  • Personal identification documents of the business owner(s)
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Proof of address

Visit the bank’s branch or their online portal to initiate the account opening process. Provide the required information and documentation, and follow the bank’s instructions to complete the account setup.

Establishing Accounting Systems

Accurate accounting is crucial for monitoring your company’s financial health and making informed business decisions. Implementing effective accounting systems will help you maintain organized financial records and ensure compliance with tax regulations. Consider the following tips for setting up accounting systems:

  • Choose accounting software: Select a reliable accounting software that suits the size and complexity of your business. Popular options include QuickBooks, Xero, and Wave.
  • Chart of accounts: Develop a chart of accounts to categorize and track various financial transactions such as income, expenses, assets, and liabilities.
  • Recordkeeping: Maintain a systematic recordkeeping system. Keep invoices, receipts, and financial statements organized and easily accessible.
  • Reconcile bank statements: Regularly reconcile your bank statements with your accounting records to identify any discrepancies and ensure accuracy.
  • Consider hiring a professional: If managing accounting tasks becomes overwhelming, consider hiring a professional accountant or bookkeeper to assist you.

By setting up business banking and accounting systems, you’ll establish a solid financial foundation for your company. These systems will enable you to manage your finances efficiently, make informed decisions, and ensure compliance with relevant regulations.

Develop a comprehensive business plan

When starting a company, one of the most crucial steps you can take is to develop a comprehensive business plan. A business plan serves as a roadmap, guiding your company towards success. It outlines your goals, strategies, and financial projectionsbusiness plan, providing a clear vision for your venture. Here are the key elements to include in your business plan:

1. Executive Summary

The executive summary provides an overview of your business and highlights its unique value proposition. It should concisely communicate your company’s mission, target market, competitive advantage, and growth potential.

2. Market Analysis

In this section, conduct thorough research on your target market, identifying trends, customer preferences, and potential competitors. This analysis will help you understand the market landscape and position your company effectively.

3. Company Description

Describe your company’s history, legal structure, and key personnel. Highlight your team’s expertise and explain how your company is uniquely positioned to meet customer needs.

4. Product or Service Offering

Detail your product or service offerings, emphasizing their unique features, benefits, and value to customers. Include pricing strategies and any intellectual property assets that differentiate your offerings from competitors.

5. Marketing and Sales Strategy

Outline your marketing and sales plans, including target demographics, advertising channels, and distribution strategies. Define your pricing strategystarting a company and sales forecasts, ensuring they align with market demand and competition.

6. Operations and Management

Explain your company’s organizational structure, key personnel roles, and operational processes. Address any potential operational challenges and detail your plans for managing day-to-day operations effectively.

7. Financial Projections

Include financial forecasts for your company, covering revenue projections, expenses, and cash flow estimates. Use historical data, market research, and industry benchmarks to support your projections and demonstrate the financial viability of your businessbusiness plan.

8. Funding Request

If you are seeking funding, clearly outline your capital requirements and explain how the funds will be used. Provide a detailed financial plan that demonstrates the potential return on investment for potential investors or lenders.

A comprehensive business plan demonstrates your understanding of your industry, customer needs, and competitive landscape. It also acts as a valuable guide that can help you make informed decisions and pivot your strategy when needed. Take the time to create a robust and well-researched business plan, as it sets the foundation for your company’s success.

Understand tax obligations and compliance

One crucial aspect of starting a company in the USA is understanding the tax obligations and compliance requirements that come with it. Complying with tax laws is essential for avoiding penalties, maintaining good standing with the authorities, and ensuring the smooth operation of your business.

When you start a company, you will need to fulfill various tax obligations, including:

  • Federal taxes: As a business owner, you will be required to pay federal taxes based on your company’s structure. This includes income tax, self-employment tax if you are a sole proprietor, and other applicable taxes such as excise tax.
  • State taxes: Each state has its own tax laws, and it is important to understand and fulfill your state tax obligations. This usually includes income tax, sales tax if you are selling products, and any other state-specific taxes.
  • Employment taxes: If you have employees, you will need to withhold and pay employment taxes, including federal income tax, Social Security tax, and Medicare tax. You will also need to report these taxes to the appropriate authorities.

To ensure compliance with tax laws, it is advisable to consult with a qualified tax professional who can provide accurate guidance and help you navigate the complexities of the tax system.

Additionally, keeping proper records and documentation is vital for tax compliance. This includes maintaining accurate financial records, retaining receipts and invoices, and keeping track of expenses related to your business.

Benefits of tax compliance

Complying with tax obligations not only helps you avoid legal issues but also offers several benefits for your company:

  • Financial stability: By managing your taxes effectively, you can maintain financial stability and avoid unexpected financial burdens.
  • Good reputation: Complying with tax laws demonstrates your commitment to ethical business practices and helps build trust with customers, suppliers, and partners.
  • Access to government programs: Some government programs and incentives are available only to compliant businesses. By fulfilling your tax obligations, you may become eligible for these programs, which can provide valuable support and resources.

Understanding tax obligations and compliance is crucial for starting a company in the USA. By being proactive and staying informed, you can ensure that your business operates smoothly and successfully while meeting all legal requirements.

Secure necessary business insurance

When starting a company, obtaining the appropriate business insurance is crucial to protect your assets and mitigate potential risks. Business insurance provides financial coverage for various unexpected events that could hinder the smooth operation of your company.

There are different types of insurance policies available, each designed to address specific needs. Before choosing the right policies for your company, it is essential to assess your risks and consider the nature of your business.

Types of business insurance

Here are some common types of business insurance policies:

  • General liability insurance: This policy protects your business from claims related to bodily injury, property damage, or other liabilities.
  • Professional liability insurance: Also known as errors and omissions insurance, this coverage is important for service-based businesses to protect against claims of negligence, errors, or omissions.
  • Property insurance: This policy covers damage or loss of business property, including buildings, equipment, inventory, and furniture.
  • Business interruption insurance: In the event of a disaster or unforeseen circumstances that cause a temporary shutdown, this insurance provides financial support to cover ongoing expenses and lost income.
  • Workers’ compensation insurance: If you have employees, workers’ compensation insurance is typically mandatory. It provides coverage for medical expenses and lost wages in case of work-related injuries or illnesses.
  • Cyber insurance: With the increasing threat of cyber attacks, this coverage protects your business from the financial consequences of data breaches, hacking incidents, or other cyber risks.

Depending on the nature of your business, you may also need additional insurance policies such as product liability insurance, commercial auto insurance, or directors and officers insurance. Assessing your risks and consulting with an insurance professional can help you determine the specific coverage your company requires.

Insurance type Description
General liability insurance Protects your business from claims related to bodily injury, property damage, or other liabilities.
Professional liability insurance Provides coverage for claims of negligence, errors, or omissions in service-based businesses.
Property insurance Covers damage or loss of business property, including buildings, equipment, inventory, and furniture.
Business interruption insurance Provides financial support for ongoing expenses and lost income in the event of a temporary shutdown.
Workers’ compensation insurance Covers medical expenses and lost wages for work-related injuries or illnesses.
Cyber insurance Protects your business from the financial consequences of data breaches, hacking incidents, or other cyber risks.

Hiring employees and understanding labor laws

When starting a business in the USA, hiring employees is an important step towards growth and success. However, it is crucial to understand the labor laws and regulations that govern the employer-employee relationship. Compliance with labor laws ensures fair treatment of employees and protects your business from legal issues or penalties.

Here are some key considerations for hiring employees and understanding labor laws:

Hiring Process

  • Develop a clear and comprehensive job description that outlines the roles, responsibilities, and qualifications for the position.
  • Advertise the job opening through various platforms to attract qualified candidates.
  • Conduct thorough interviews and background checks to evaluate applicants’ suitability for the role.
  • Make a formal offer to the selected candidate, outlining the terms of employment, including salary, benefits, and start date.

Employee Benefits

  • Research and understand the required employee benefits mandated by federal and state laws, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid leave.
  • Consider offering additional benefits, such as flexible work arrangements, professional development opportunities, and employee wellness programs, to attract and retain top talent.

Payroll Obligations

  • Register your business for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to fulfill your tax obligations.
  • Understand and comply with federal and state laws regarding minimum wage, overtime pay, and payroll taxes.
  • Establish a reliable payroll system to accurately calculate and distribute employee salaries, taxes, and other deductions.

Understanding and adhering to labor laws is crucial to create a respectful and compliant work environment. It is recommended to consult with an employment attorney or HR specialist to ensure full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

Establish an online presence and marketing strategy

In today’s digital age, having a strong online presence is crucial for the success of your company. A well-executed marketing strategy can help you reach your target audience, increase brand awareness, and drive sales. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to expand your existing online presence, here are some essential tips to consider.

Create a Professional Website

A website serves as the foundation of your online presence. It’s where potential customers can learn more about your products or services, contact you, and make purchases. When designing your website, ensure it is user-friendly, visually appealing, and optimized for search engines. Incorporate relevant keywords in your website content to improve its visibility and attract organic traffic. Don’t forget to make your website responsive, so it can be easily accessed on mobile devices as well.

Utilize Social Media Platforms

Social media platforms provide a valuable opportunity to engage with your target audience, share updates about your company, and build brand loyalty. Choose the platforms that align with your target market and business goals. Regularly post engaging and informative content, such as industry news, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and special offers. Encourage your followers to interact with your posts through likes, comments, and shares. Remember to keep your brand voice consistent across all social media channels.

Implement Effective SEO Strategies

Search engine optimization (SEO) plays a crucial role in improving your online visibility. Research and incorporate relevant keywords throughout your website content, meta tags, and image alt attributes. Build high-quality backlinks from reputable websites to enhance your website’s authority. Regularly track and analyze your website analytics to identify areas for improvement and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly.

Create Engaging Content

Content marketing is an effective way to attract and engage your target audience. Create valuable and shareable content that provides insights, solves problems, or entertains your audience. This can include blog posts, articles, videos, infographics, and more. Don’t be afraid to showcase your expertise and position your company as a thought leader in your industry.

Utilize Online Advertising

Online advertising can help boost your online presence and increase brand visibility. Consider using platforms like Google Ads or social media advertising to target specific demographics or keywords. Set a budget and monitor the performance of your ads to ensure they are generating the desired results.

Engage with Your Audience

Building a strong relationship with your audience is key to a successful online presence. Respond to comments, messages, and reviews promptly and professionally. Encourage customer feedback and use it to improve your products, services, and overall customer experience.

By establishing a strong online presence and implementing an effective marketing strategy, you can position your company for success in the digital landscape. Keep in mind that online marketing tactics are constantly evolving, so it’s important to stay updated with the latest trends and strategies to stay ahead of the competition.

Monitor and adapt your business strategies

To thrive in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape, it is crucial to continuously monitor and adapt your business strategies. Keeping a close eye on market trends and consumer preferences allows you to stay ahead of the competition and seize new opportunities for growth.

Evaluating the performance of your business strategies is an essential first step. Analyze key metrics such as sales, customer feedback, and market share to gain valuable insights into what is working and what needs improvement. Identifying areas of strength and weakness helps you make informed decisions to optimize your strategies and maximize your results.

Adaptability is key to long-term success. As the market evolves and new challenges arise, it is important to be flexible and willing to adjust your business strategies accordingly. This may involve refining your target audience, exploring new marketing channels, or introducing innovative products and services.

Regularly reviewing and updating your strategies ensures that you are meeting the changing demands of your customers and staying relevant in a competitive environment. By embracing a proactive approach and being responsive to emerging trends, you can position your business for continued growth and prosperity.


Q: What are the different business structures available in the USA?

A: The main business structures in the USA include sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation. Each structure has its advantages and disadvantages, and choosing the right one depends on your specific needs and goals.

Q: How do I obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN)?

A: To obtain an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you can apply online or through mail/fax. The EIN is a unique identifier for your business and is necessary for tax purposes, hiring employees, opening a business bank account, and more.

Q: What is the process for registering a company with the state?

A: The process for registering a company with the state varies depending on the state you are in. Generally, it involves submitting the necessary documents, such as Articles of Incorporation or Articles of Organization, and paying the required fees. You may also need to choose a company name that complies with state regulations.

Q: What licenses and permits do I need for my business?

A: The licenses and permits you need for your business depend on your industry and location. Common examples include business licenses, professional licenses, zoning permits, health permits, and more. Research the specific requirements for your business and ensure compliance to avoid legal issues.

Q: How do I set up business banking and accounting systems?

A: To separate your personal and business finances, open a business bank account. Research different banks to find one that suits your needs. Additionally, consider using accounting software or hiring an accountant to establish proper bookkeeping, financial reporting, and tax compliance systems.

Q: What should be included in a comprehensive business plan?

A: A comprehensive business plan should include an executive summary, company description, market analysis, organization and management structure, product or service offerings, marketing and sales strategies, financial projections, and more. It serves as a roadmap for your company’s growth and can help attract investors or secure financing.

Q: What tax obligations and compliance requirements should I be aware of?

A: As a business owner in the USA, you are responsible for filing taxes, making estimated tax payments, collecting and remitting sales tax (if applicable), and ensuring compliance with federal, state, and local tax laws. Familiarize yourself with these obligations and consult with a tax professional to ensure accurate reporting.

Q: Why is business insurance important, and what types do I need?

A: Business insurance provides financial protection against unforeseen events such as property damage, liability claims, and business interruptions. The types of insurance you need depend on your industry and business activities. Common types include general liability insurance, property insurance, professional liability insurance, and worker’s compensation insurance.

Q: What should I consider when hiring employees and navigating labor laws?

A: When hiring employees, make sure to understand and comply with labor laws regarding minimum wage, working hours, overtime pay, employee benefits, and tax withholding. Familiarize yourself with federal and state employment regulations and consult with an employment lawyer if needed.

Q: How can I establish an online presence and develop a marketing strategy?

A: Establish an online presence by creating a professional website and utilizing social media platforms relevant to your target audience. Develop a marketing strategy by identifying your target market, creating compelling content, implementing SEO techniques, engaging in online advertising, and leveraging social media marketing to promote your products or services.

Q: How should I monitor and adapt my business strategies?

A: Continuously monitor your business strategies by evaluating key performance indicators (KPIs), customer feedback, market trends, and competitor analysis. Identify areas for improvement and adapt your strategies accordingly. Stay updated on industry developments and be prepared to make necessary adjustments to stay competitive in the long run.

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