Taxman Takes The Winnings
Let me tell you how it will be,
There's one for you, 19 for me.
Congratulations! Through either winning a sweepstakes, the lottery, or an Unexpected Inheritance
, you're suddenly rich! But, don't celebrate too soon; a man from the Intimidating Revenue Service
will be along shortly to inform you that after federal taxes, state taxes, employment taxes, property taxes and miscellaneous additional fees, your winnings have dwindled down to nothing, heck you may even owe
Basically the government's equivalent to Cut a Slice, Take the Rest
. This is almost exclusively an American trope, given the reputation the Internal Revenue Service has (justified or not) for coming up with any reason at all to seize large chunks of money from the suddenly-wealthy. Story-wise, this trope can be used to keep a character in Perpetual Poverty
and maintain the status quo
while giving them a small taste of the wealthy life. But of course, woe be to the character who already started spending large sums of their cash before they get the news that they can't keep most of it.
Truth in Television
, though fiction likes to exaggerate it for comedic purposes. Somewhat
exaggerate it, anyway.
See also A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted
. A subtrope of Yank the Dog's Chain
- The Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! story "The Galleon Ghost" (Gold Key #2, June, 1970) dealt with the gang coming across a band of pirates in a Florida swamp. They are unmasked to be gypsies who were only trying to keep the gold they found a secret for fear that the IRS will take it. Fred assures them that the IRS will only take part of the gold, leaving the gypsies well off after all.
- In The Three Stooges short "Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb", Curly wins $50,000 in a radio sweepstakes, and the stooges think they have it made. That is until they find out that after taxes Curly is only left with $4.85, leaving them unable to pay for the damages to the expensive hotel they're living in. This scenario was repeated in "A Missed Fortune", a remake featuring Shemp.
- In "Three Pests in a Mess" a trio of con artists (not the Stooges) learn of a man (also not one of the Stooges) who won $100,000 in a contest. They later learn that after paying his income taxes he had only $12 left.
- In "An Ache in Every Stake" another con artist sells the boys the rights to a "lost mine" loaded with "a hundred thousand tons of pure gold worth $35 an ounce." Curly determines that after taxes said gold is worth "a dollar and a half."
- Variation: Due to the events of the film Uncovered, the heroine Julia ends up with ownership of an old Spanish estate. The banker then informs her that she has also ended up with the mountain of debts attached to it and she promptly has to sell the whole thing off. Her boyfriend remarks:
Domenec: Easy come. Easy go.
- In between the first and second National Treasure movies, this happens to Riley Poole and at the beginning of the second film, his Ferrari is impounded by the IRS while he is signing copies of his book.
Riley Poole: [to Ben] Do you know what the taxes are on 5 million dollars? 6 million dollars.
- In The Shawshank Redemption, Byron Hadley, the sadistic captain of the prison guard, receives an inheritance of $35,000, but he complains about taxes coming to take most of it away, even if he decides to buy something with it. The main character, Andy Dufresne, overhears him and offers to guide him through a financial loophole to allow him to keep the whole sum.
Hadley: Dumb shit, what do you think the government's gonna do to me? Take a big wet bite out of my ass is what!
- In "Champagne for Caeser" Ronald Colman is on the verge of bankrupting a soap company through their game show and is being shadowed by two sinister men in dark suits. Since the company president has already tried to sabotage him he's naturally paranoid about them. Finally he confronts them and finds out they are from the IRS. When he asks how much he'll owe, one says "Let's just say you're in the battleship class."
- The Twilight Zone Classic episode "The Man in the Bottle". The Castles' second wish is for a million dollars in cash. After they give away some of the money, an IRS agent shows up and gives them a bill for the taxes (Federal and state) they owe on it. This leaves them with only five dollars.
- Emergency! had one episode where a wealthy guy left John and Roy a fortune after they rescued him. But he asked that some go to someone else, and gets some, and after taxes get taken out, the paramedics have a few bucks left and that's it.
- The 1993 remake of Route66 starts the plot like this. Nick's estranged father dies and leaves him everything; after inheritance taxes and lawyer fees he actually owes a little money, leaving him with nothing except his dad's classic Corvette.
- The Beatles' song Taxman from Revolver is a scathing critique on taxes.
- Serge Gainsbourg once protested against taxes by burning a money bill live on the air during a TV interview. He felt he would rather burn this high amount of money than give it away to the tax institute.
- In Monopoly, it's possible on the same move to receive £200 by passing 'Go' and then land on 'Income Tax - pay £200'.
- In In the Heights, in the song "$96,000", where it's been announced that someone won the lottery, and everyone is fantasizing about what they'd do with the money, Usnavi points out "You'll have a knapsack full of jack after taxes".