Audit Threat

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 those scary tax agencies like the American 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...

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • Discworld:
    • Lord Vetinari mentions once 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • I Dreamof Jeannie: In "My Master The Rich Tycoon" it's case of dueling audit threats. An IRS man threatens to audit Dr. Bellows if he doesn't cough up some information on Major Nelson. Dr. Bellows threatens to have the IRS man drafted. Touché, Dr. Bellows, touché.
  • CSI: New York has Flack do this a fair bit.
  • In NCIS, Tony or Gibbs also do this on occasions.
  • Happens all the time on Law & Order.
  • In the Eli Sternberg arc in Wiseguy, Federal Agent McPike is trying to get some information from a company that does business with the group that they are investigating. They refuse, until McPike says "If you don't let me in, I will call my friends at the IRS. They eat guys like you for breakfast". The company lets him in immediately.
  • In The Rockford Files, people in official positions often threaten to have Jim Rockford's private investigator's license reviewed to get him to cooperate.
  • On Justified US Marshal Raylan is in Florida looking for a fugitive and needs to get in touch with Daryl Crowe. He goes to talk to one of Daryl's associates but the guy is uncooperative. Raylan then tells him that he and his partner are going to grab food at a local diner and if Daryl is not there by the time they finish eating, they will come back with a warrant and an official from Fish and Wildlife. Since the guy has been illegally poaching alligators, he quickly becomes cooperative. Averted when they meet with Daryl since the marshals simply threaten to send him back to jail for a parole violation which is within their jurisdiction.
  • In one episode of Murphy Brown, Murphy gets in trouble with the White House (again), and Miles ends up dealing with the fallout.
    Miles: I made a new friend today: Dave, head of the Secret Service. Nice guy, I think he really meant it when he said he hoped there were no mistakes on my last seven tax returns!

    Tabletop Games 

     Web Comics 
  • In Scary Go Round, secret agent Fallon Young uses the same sort of pressure to get inventor Tim Jones to join her on a mission.
  • Dominic Deegan has Sieg's father, Lars, called in to help with his son's exorcism. "I'm an accountant! What am I going to do, threaten it with a tax audit?" A few moments later:
    "Begone, demon, or be plagued with high interest rates!"

     Western Animation 
  • In Danny Phantom, this was used several times by people representing the government. It got quick results in each instance.

     Real Life 
  • This was one of the tactics the FBI used as part of its COINTELPRO operation targeting radical groups in The Sixties.