When police or detectives encounter a recalcitrant witness who owns or runs a business, and they get him to talk by threatening to sic a government agency on them. This threat usually opens the witness's mouth, especially if the business deals in mostly cash, or is obviously less than reputable. Government agencies often used in the threat include tax agencies like the IRS and regulatory bodies like liquor licensing boards.
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Anime & Manga
- In the manga for AKIRA, the military takes this Up to Eleven. When the barman confidently produces his liquor license, the agent talking to him proceeds to burn it, informing the barman that of course he'll have to pass another inspection to get a new one...
- Used by the Beagle Boys in one Donald Duck comic. When Donald refuses to reveal the location of Scrooge's money vault among the four dozen he had built, they grab a blank tax form and start filling it out for him, putting down the kind of income that, well, Scrooge would be familiar with. He caves in after that. Fortunately, after Donald explains the situation (once the vault is emptied) and gets Scrooge to stop killing him, Scrooge starts dynamiting the other vaults... where it turns out the Beagle Boys had stashed it.
Films — Live-Action
- Blade Runner. Police officer Deckard is trying to get information from strip club owner Taffey Lewis.
Deckard: Did you ever see this girl?
Taffey: Never seen her. Buzz off.
Deckard: Your licenses in order, pal?
Taffey: (unimpressed) Hey, Louie. The man is dry. Give him one on the house, okay? See ya.
- In Beverly Hills Cop, Axel Foley is caught illegally searching for evidence; he pretends to be an inspector and threatens an employee who questions his authority with an IRS audit. The employee drops his objections.
- Robert Stack's tycoon character in Uncommon Valor gets threatened with IRS audits if he continues to fund the operation to go rescue some long-abandoned and left for dead Vietnam War prisoners (amongst which is his and The Hero's son). His response is a simple "fuck you".
- In Lindsey Davis's Marcus Didius Falco book Time To Depart, Falco and Petro are talking to the receptionist of a brothel (they were going to question her boss) when she offers them 'something special', a freeborn whore. Petro asks if the receptionist can show him the official she's registered with, and her registration number, after which she realises that they weren't there to score.
- In Discworld, Lord Vetinari mentions to a complaining guild that, incidentally, they were on the taxpayer register last he looked.
- In Men at Arms, the City Watch (under Corporal Carrot) uses this to get some weapons to deal with the civil unrest in Ankh-Morpork from the armory.
- By the time of Snuff, the City Watch has gained the power to use this threat thanks to A.E. Pessimal.
- In Bloodline, by Sidney Sheldon, many people would cooperate with any investigation lead by Detective Max Hornung because of the reputation he earned during his previous job as a tax auditor. And only once in the whole book he's ever seen actually threatening someone. He did earn his reputation.
- In Danny Phantom, this was used several times by people representing the government. It got quick results in each instance.
- This was one of the tactics the FBI used as part of its COINTELPRO operation targeting radical groups in The Sixties.