Even daredevil superheroes and hardened villains fear the taxman from the IRS.
This is especially odd when said characters handle Eldritch Abominations on a regular basis and are able to kill an army like it was nothing. Apparently, going to jail for tax evasion is a Fate Worse than Death. On the plus side, they help the reader relate to the character (because taxes are serious business in Real Life) and can even make the villain more sympathetic, pitting them against the unfathomable might of... taxes. Even gangsters who get away daily with murder and robbery may fall into the clutches of the law, dead or alive, if they don't pay their income tax. (In fact, that actually happened to Al Capone.)
Sometimes, the intimidating part comes from a person who gets a summons to the tax office and the person fears that they are in trouble and might be arrested for a tax violation. In this kind of story, it turns out the bureaucrat is a nice enough person who just wanted to clear up a minor problem and, seeing that the character is frightened, has to give some reassurances that nothing is wrong beyond that.
A few times, the "intimidating" part is literal: the IRS agent is a highly antagonistic, inhumanly slimy Evil Debt Collector who is itching at the possibility of sentencing the protagonist to fifty years hard labor in Leavenworth (or the chair) and seizing literally everything the protagonist has for the crime of owing Uncle Sam (and the IRS agent) ten cents. Or to avoid having to sign a check to pay the protagonist back said ten cents.
The trope is named after the USA's Internal Revenue Service, a department of the USA's central/federal government which collects all the country's taxes except for those on goods imported from other countries (tariffs) and ships entering US ports (tolls). Based on His Majesty's Inland Revenue department (now His Majesty's Revenue and Customs), it was founded shortly after the beginning of the USA's Civil War as part of the process of full economic mobilisation required to build up and sustain an army big enough to suppress the rebellion.
Almost every country has its own version of this, often depicted the same way. They count as well.
For the lighter, comedic version, see Department of Major Vexation. See also Forensic Accounting, a common tool used by the Intimidating Revenue Service. Audit Threat is when the characters threaten to call the Intimidating Revenue Service or their friend who works there. Taxman Takes the Winnings is when you win a big sum of money only for the IRS to take its very large chunk - no intimidation is necessary there.
- Played with in the English translation of Hunter × Hunter. Knuckle's Nen ability A.P.R. assigns a numerical value to a person's Nen ability, and allows him to loan some of his Battle Aura to his opponent with "interest" that builds over time. If their amount of "interest" reaches an amount of aura they can't pay back (by successfully hitting him), his secondary ability I.R.S. seals the opponent's Nen for 30 days.
- In Misappropriation Investigator Nakabo Rintaro, they're on the good guy's side for once. Nakabo tips off the Marusa (the Japanese version) to investigate a Corrupt Politician's illicit fund. He frantically tried to hide his money, only to deliver it straight into Nakabo's hands, rendering him penniless overnight.
- There was the 1961 Superman story "Superman Owes a Billion Dollars" where the IRS notices that Superman hasn't paid taxes ever, so, long story short, the Man of Steel has to raise a billion dollars fast, or else he will be arrested. Or something (it's hard to tell, he is Superman, for crying out loud). Before you ask, Superman's income comes from the rewards on the criminals he catches and the diamonds he makes when he crushes coal in his hands. He donates everything to charity, though. The story ends with the taxman's superior saying that since Superman has dedicated his life to helping the population of Earth, he can literally claim billions of dependents and thus any tax obligations are then effectively canceled. Presumably he only claims the ones who don't pay US taxes (as otherwise no-one could claim the standard deduction that requires one not be someone's dependent). In addition, his dependents deduction would be limited on a billion dollar adjusted gross income. This story was a Recycled Script of an earlier 1957 Superman story, "Superman's Billion Dollar Debt". Yes, DC had the Man of Steel face the IRS twice.
- Averted in Lobo: "Death and Taxes". He solves the problem with violence as usual.
- Ant-Man: In an issue of Astonishing Ant-Man, a group of veteran villains tell the new Magician that he's going to need a good accountant if he's gonna be a supervillain. Hijacker even says the only thing scarier than The Punisher is the IRS.
- Marvel Adventures:
- One issue has The Avengers make a bargain with the tax man to waive their back taxes (mostly Wolverine's, who has never paid taxes in his life) in return for rounding up tax dodgers and making them pay their taxes.
- It should be noted that the deal was that by getting the tax dodgers, the Avengers could file theirs without giving up their secret identities to the government (Tony Stark offered to pay the sum.) At the end of the story, the team gets back at the tax man the only way one can...
Agent Harvey: And with that, gentlemen, your job is finished. Thank you very much. It's been a pleasure.
Giant-Girl: Hah. You say that now...
Iron-Man: But wait until you get our list of tax reductions for this job.
Giant-Girl: I saved receipts!
Agent Harvey: Urrkkk!
- At one point, Wally West got a job with the IRS to pay off his massive debt. In the issue of The Flash where this begins, a furious mayor is about to demand compensation for the massive property damage involved in apprehending a supervillain tax evader, but backs off when he flashes his badge. In the next issue, Wally contemplates the possibility of nailing the Joker on this basis.
- The secondary plotline of an Achille Talon album deals with a tax man showing up at his door for an audit of the last five years. Cue Achille's father with boxes and boxes of receipts, opening discussions upfront with an "iron clad case that those ballpoint pens were a legitimate business expense" and tipping off the tax man that he may be in over his head. By the end of the album, Achille's father is sitting on a mountain of receipts, the tax man is crying his surrender and they've barely gone through the first morning's expenses for the five year period being audited.
- Disney Ducks Comic Universe examples:
- The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: Scrooge was told his family doesn't fear anyone except tax collectors.
- Near the end of "The Last Lord of El Dorado", Scrooge's glee at having Flintheart Glomgold owe him "All the money in the world" due to unpaid interest on El Dorado's gold into an obscure bank Glomgold bought from Scrooge is cut short when the government shows up to claim unpaid taxes, and, Scrooge has no choice but to give up the gold to avoid going broke "Two centuries before he was born."
- A classic Paperinik story subverts it twice before playing it straight... And then subverting it again twice:
- The first subversion comes when the city of Duckburg tries to enforce the payment of taxes... And fails miserably, with most collectors getting beat up and a rich family tricking the collector into canceling them from the taxpayers list and give them some money.
- The second comes when the mayor hires three experts. The experts are replaced by the Beagle Boys, who try this... Except the collectors are still the guys who got defeated the first time.
- Played straight when the Beagle Boys replace the collectors with small-time criminals, who aren't so easily tricked or beat up and succeed in collecting the Beagle Boys' insane taxes.
- Subverted again when the citizens get fed up, beat up the collectors and form a lynching mob to get back their money. The collectors wisely run away.
- At the end the real experts are freed by Paperinik, and since Duckburg does need taxes they decide to instead pile up on a single target rather than risking another city-wide insurrection... And decide to target Paperinik, reasoning that being a superhero is a privilege. While they don't know Paperinik is actually a sadistic vigilante, the mayor agrees fully knowing that. The story thankfully ends before Paperinik shows them what happens to whoever picks a fight with the Devilish Avenger...
- A Fantomius story reveals that the costume of the Phantom of Notre Duck was copied from one of his ancestors, a terrifying tax collector. The costume is still creepy in modern times.
- Strontium Dog: Johnny Alpha and Wulf Stenhammer are hounded by tax agent Orville Paxman in one story. The pudgy little pencil-pusher turns out to be dedicated enough to follow Alpha and Stenhammer on a job, which is saying something.
- In Asterix
- In Asterix and the Cauldron, the one time a Roman tried to tax the villagers is fondly remembered, with the Gauls dissolving into helpless laughter at the mention of it. Of course, since the whole premise of the series is that this one Gaulish village is not part of The Roman Empire despite Caesar's best efforts, they naturally do not consider themselves bound by Roman tax law.
- In Asterix in Switzerland, the plot is kicked off when governor Varius Flavus is faced with an audit by the Roman Quaestor (inspector) Vexatius Sinusitus, and poisons him in an attempt to avoid the audit. Atypically for this trope, Sinusitus is actually portrayed as just an honest official trying to do his job, while Flavus is corrupt, and genuinely was doing things that were grounds for an audit (embezzling from his district's tax revenues).
- In The Authority, Jack Hawksmoor makes a crack about "so this is what we pay taxes for", only for Mission Control to remind him that he's never paid taxes. Somewhat justifiably, too - he's never actually held down a job due to his repeated abductions since childhood, and as an adult he never needed to due to his symbiosis with cities.
- In one of Mortadelo y Filemón's issues, the Big Bad (a Freddy Krueger Expy) assaults a man, who gives him a Smug Smile while showing him he is a tax inspector. The Big Bad promptly runs away, horrified.
- The IRS is a central threat in the second story arc of Largo Winch; the titular character has just ducked and swerved through an international criminal conspiracy - which has killed over a dozen people as collateral damage - in order to claim his $10 billion inheritance. He barely has a chance to catch his breath and patch his wounds when the taxman shows up to claim ten percent of it. Things go into high gear when the taxman produces obviously stolen documents, smugly says that he received them from a "honest taxpayer eager to help his country's treasury" and the IRS isn't subject to rules of evidence anyway, then seizes critical assets during a hostile takeover, threatening the entire company with bankruptcy. Over the course of the arc Largo discovers another criminal conspiracy - this time to place thousands of American companies under the control of Libyan terrorists, with the ultimate goal of all of them declaring bankruptcy on the same day during an economic crisis while the backers escape with the cash. Result: the financial crisis of 2007–2008 - visualized in The '90s (and described as being cheaper, and more effective, than a Macross Missile Massacre pointed at New York). As this conspiracy gave the IRS Largo's records, enabling them to seize his assets, the IRS unknowingly but willfully participated in high treason. Turns out there's one man who the taxman can't intimidate - the President of the United States, who orders Largo's assets un-frozen in time to shut down the conspiracy. Literally- he has to hijack a window cleaner's elevator, fight off the Big Bad who was masquerading as the window cleaner, smash the window to get in the board meeting and ask the business rival (the Lybians' Unwitting Pawn and figurehead for the takeover) for his pen to sign the documents, with less than a minute left to go.
- Captain America: During Gruenwald's run a minor government accountant finds out one Steve Rogers owes the US government an awful lot of back tax. This passes along to the Commission of Superhuman Affairs, who insist he work for them to pay back that money. Steve considers this, and decides to resign as Captain America rather than be forced to do things that go against his conscience. Later on, the Red Skull claims he set this all up to get at Steve.
- An issue of "What The-?" (a late 80s/early 90s Marvel parody comic) showcased "Woofeream", a humorous take on Wolverine. The hero is engaged in a Danger Room scenario, and easily dodges various hazards like machine gun fire, rockets, flamethrowers, and even a lurking Grim Reaper. But all his mocking bravado quickly evaporates when he comes across an IRS rep, who says he's there to audit all of his returns for the past ten years. "Woofeream" is initially terrified, until he realizes that as a Canadian citizen, he wouldn't owe any money to the US of A, and promptly eviscerates the rep.
- Peanuts; Snoopy doesn't have to pay taxes, but in this Sunday strip, he has to fill out an annual form that's just as much a headache to him as a 401K is, used to parody such forms.
- Piranha Club:
- One storyline has Sid try to avoid a massive audit, due to not having filed taxes since the '70s, by pretending to be destitute and operating his "business" out of an old car in the junkyard. It actually WORKS, leading to the tax officer putting Sid on welfare instead of sending him to prison.
- Another storyline revolves around Sid trying to get around an audit by pretending to be Ernie, his nephew. It turns out Ernie is owed several thousand dollars in refunds by the government.
- Parodied in Calvin and Hobbes.
Calvin: Gosh, I never get mail! I wonder who sent this. There's no return address! In its place there's a crude human skull with X's for eyes and its tongue hanging out! ...Maybe it's the IRS.
- Foxtrot had Jason and Marcus wear IRS t-shirts for Halloween one year. One of their neighbors has a heart attack. Of course, Roger being Bumbling Dad incarnate, they have good reason to fear the IRS. One year he assured Andy he wasn't going to do the taxes himself... he was going to do them on the computer; in another he asks if it's even possible to file taxes in a legally-binding state of mind (as Andy asked, "Who is Roglp Fox?").
- In Hägar the Horrible, the headsmen in their black hoods do double duty as the tax collectors, and always bring their axes with them on the job in case anybody doesn't pay. In one comic, they tried a different approach: a song and dance number about how people need to pay their taxes because "the king needs dough." Hagar admitted he missed the fear and intimidation.
- Ziggy seems to get audited every week or so.
- Garfield once read about a movie titled "The Mummy's Curse" on his TV guide. The synopsis: "Mummy rises only to be hit with five thousand years of back taxes."
- In Monty, Robotman's Evil Twin was created when Monty uploaded an IRS tax auditor's brain pattern into a robot. It worked all too well. The robot became insanely evil and its first act was to give Monty a severe audit.
- One week-long series of Dilbert strips starting with this one didn't pull punches, depicting the tax man as a monster (literally) named "Stanky Bathurd" who was rewriting the tax code to intentionally make it more frustrating, simply For the Evulz. (He hired Dogbert to help him.)
- MAD's parody of Aliens begins thus:
Picture this! Creatures so terrible they would suck every breath of life out of you! No, we're not talking about the Internal Revenue Service, we're talking about the stars of one of this year's hottest films!
- In Flash Fog, the threat of being investigated by the Equestrian Revenue Service hangs over Fluttershy's head, as she's been using her technical "fog specialist" status to get a tax break. So when there's an actual fog emergency, she has to actually work on the problem or face the ERS.
- One Omake for Implacable has this trope being invoked by the protagonists against a corrupt inner-city high school, resulting in the IRS arresting every supervillain in town.
- In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, fear of the Trans-Galactic Republic's version of this and a proposed massive tax on legitimate shipping drives the Band of Brothers to make an agreement to only smuggle certain types of goods (e.g. no slaves, no stolen military hardware) in exchange for the government looking the other way. Honest shippers support it too since with this agreement, the tax they would have to pay disappears and they receive limited privateering powers to help enforce "Smuggling With a Smile" alongside the authorities.
- In the Italian remake of Battle Fantasia Project, the Italian Guardia di Finanza (a gendarmerie specialized in financial crimes) has a terrifying reputation among magical creatures due a series of freak accidents in which they arrested Arcueid Brunestud, Nrvnqsr Chaos and Roa (to be fair, Arcueid followed them without protest because she knew she would get out in an heartbeat without violence and they could only bring in Nrvnqsr Chaos because he laughed himself 'till he fainted when they threatened him, with Chaos breaking out as soon as he woke up in an holding cell and never setting the record straight out of shame. Roa, on the other hand, was arrested because survived getting shot a dozen times but was still knocked out). Amazingly, they actually live up their reputation when the magical world getting exposed allowed them to find out the Nightmare Factory had not paid all of their taxes and thus, fully knowing what they were doing and who they were dealing with, seized all their solid and liquid assets in Italy and disseminated information on how to do this to their worldwide counterparts.
- Word of God was that in Bruce Has a Problem that their version of Phil Coulson wasn't with S.H.I.E.L.D., but the IRS.
- Pony POV Series: Derpy briefly mentions that since The Doctor has been living in Ponyville for over a year, he now has to pay taxes like any other citizen. The Doctor apparently considers taxes to be scarier than evil aliens and robots and repeatedly tries to weasel out of paying them, but Mayor Mare, Princess Celestia, and the tax men don't listen to his excuses.
- In Robin Hood (1973), Prince John assigns the Sheriff of Nottingham the additional job of tax collector. The Sheriff shakes the coins out of the injured blacksmith's leg cast, and collects a coin which would have been Skippy Rabbit's birthday money as tribute to Prince John. Later on, the residents make up a derisive song about Prince John, who raises the taxes in response. The Sheriff of Nottingham even goes to Friar Tuck's chapel and takes the last farthing from the charity box, placing virtually all of Nottingham in jail, which prompts Robin Hood to sneak into the dungeon, release the prisoners, and bring the ill-gotten tax revenue back to the people of Nottingham.
- The world of Zootopia seems to have a version of the IRS, as seen in Nick's terrified reaction when Judy threatens to arrest him for Felony Tax Evasion. It instantly breaks through his cocky demeanor.
- The Absent-Minded Professor: In the sequel, Affably Evil IRS Agent Harker gives the Brainards a tax bill for far more money than they have and refuses to cut them any slack, even though the federal government has unjustly confiscated the source of income they based that tax estimate on. He also fondly recalls that he arrested his own mother for not reporting bake sale money and makes a note to tax a preadolescent paperboy.
Betsy: But Joey's only seven years old! You can't take money from a child.
Harker: You know, Professor, your wife has a remarkable sense of humor. We don't run into it often in our line of work, and that's a fact.
- In Apollo 13, during the astronauts' broadcast from deep space, pilot Jack Swigert casually mentions that he forgot to file his taxes before the April 15th deadline. Sy Liebergott comments, "That's no joke, they'll jump on him!" (Later in the film, well into the in-flight emergency, they tell him he got an extension to file his taxes because he was "most definitely out of the country.")
- Beverly Hills Cop. While pulling a Bavarian Fire Drill in a bonded warehouse Axel Foley threatens a clerk who's asking awkward questions.
"I bet you that is your Porsche that's parked outside, isn't it? Isn't that your Porsche? Is it? How would you like me to have the IRS come down here and crawl up your fuckin' ass with a microscope? 'Cause they'll do it! I've seen them do it! It's not a pretty sight!"
- Mostly averted in Dinner for Schmucks. Though Therman Murch intimidates Barry with his "mind control powers", and the fact that Barry's wife left him for Therman, virtually everyone else in the film views him as a Cloud Cuckoo Lander.
- Exaggerated in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Not only is the IRS threatening to foreclose on the Wang family's laundromat over filing errors, an alternate version of their tax auditor is openly trying to kill them. It is eventually Deconstructed and then Subverted through the course of the movie, as the ornery attitude of the Wangs' auditor is shown to at least partially stem from personal pessimism about having zero luck in finding personal companionship and near the end in the universe where she arrives with the police to foreclose on their laundromat and finds out they're going through divorce proceedings she calls off the foreclosure and gives them additional time to sort their affairs, as ultimately the IRS' job is not to punish people but to make sure the appropriate tax payments are made.
- Finding 'Ohana: Leilani is shocked and angered when she learns that her father is five years behind on his property taxes and is in danger of losing his home.
- In The Firm (1993), Mitch decided to pursue a career in law when tax agents shut down the pizza parlor he worked at for his first job; in his eyes, that proved that either you were someone who used the law to your ends, or you were someone the law was used on.
Mitch: I was a delivery boy for a pizza parlour. One day the owner got a notice from the IRS. He was an immigrant. He didn't know much English, even less about withholding tax. He went bankrupt, lost his store. That was the first time I thought about being a lawyer.
Avery: In other words you're an idealist.
Mitch: I don't know any tax lawyer who's an idealist. When he lost his store I lost my job. It scared me.
Avery: Being out of work?
Mitch: No. What the government can do... to anybody.
- Grumpy Old Men: John Gustafson's house about to be foreclosed by the IRS for back taxes as a result of him not reporting his ex-wife's income from her part-time job. The amount was initially $13,000 dollars, but with the addition of interest and late fees, it comes out to $57,000. Max Goldman's son Jacob, who has just been elected mayor, is able to stop the IRS from seizing John's house (while John was in the hospital after suffering a heart attack no less) and got them to waive the interest and late fees while Max pays the $13,000.
- Happy Gilmore: Happy's grandmother owes $270 thousand in back taxes to the IRS and has her house repossessed. This drives Happy into competing in golf tournaments to save her house.
- In Harry's War, the IRS is the Big Bad.
- From It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: "Sure, but if we find the money, we still have to report the taxes. Otherwise its like stealing from the government!... Everybody has to pay taxes. Even businessmen, who lie and cheat and steal every day, even they have to pay taxes!"
- Kidco: arguably the biggest villain in the movie, as they were originally going after the father before Peterjohn convinced them to go after the Cessna kids instead. Thanks to the IRS the movie's ending was not entirely happy.
- The Mating Game (1959) is about a taxman named Lorenzo Charlton who goes to Larkin Family farm and informs them that they haven't paid taxes ever. After getting to know them and falling in love with the Farmer's Daughter Mariette, he decides to try to help them pay their debt off, but his superiors get annoyed with his "unprofessionalism" and replace him. His greedy replacement calculates that they owe $50,000, which they can't possibly pay off. Fortunately, Lorenzo and Mariette find out that the government bought 30 horses from the Larkin's ancestor during The American Civil War and never paid him. The accumulated interest means that the government owes the Larkin family over $14,000,000, more than enough to pay off their debts.
- Popeye: The Taxman of Sweethaven is Bluto's Dragon and has run the town into poverty by charging taxes for literally anything, from parking boats on the pier (understandable) to asking him questions (absurd) to allegedly mocking him (petty), and demands exact change (or whatever is not nailed down). Popeye manages to gain the love of the town inhabitants by tossing the taxman to the sea when he gets fed up.
- Say Anything... has a dinner interrupted briefly by an innocuous visit from the IRS. Things gradually snowball from there until Mr. Court is reduced to terrifiedly cowering in the bathtub.
- The Star Wars movies have tons of MegaCorp factions (many of whom supply the droid armies of the Separatists during the Clone Wars). Many of their battle droids, such as the hailfire droid and NR-N99 tank droid were originally built in order to get payments from reluctant clients.
- A Taxing Woman stars a female income tax investigator in Japan. A note at the beginning of the English dub says that the top tax bracket in Japan is over 90%, so tax evasion has more or less become a national pastime. She ends up ruining an honest mom-and-pop establishment because their daily meals include food they prepare for themselves at their own restaurant, and makes a grown pachinko arcade operator cry to save himself from a million dollars (!) in back taxes. Then she transfers to a different department, whose job includes taking on the Yakuza — and it's a fair contest.
- 20,000 Years in Sing Sing: Played for a gag. Tommy is in Sing Sing, and on death row for shooting a fellow gangster. As he awaits execution, he gets a letter from the IRS threatening him with arrest if he doesn't pay his back taxes.
- Older Than Radio: Benjamin Franklin is the one usually credited with saying, "There are only two certainties in life, death and taxes."
- At the end of the tax year, the IRS office sent an inspector to audit the books of a synagogue. While he was checking the books he turned to the rabbi and said, "I notice you buy a lot of candles. What do you do with the candle drippings?" "Good question", noted the rabbi. "We save them up and send them back to the candle makers, and every few years they send us a free box of candles".note "Oh", replied the auditor, somewhat disappointed that his unusual question had a practical answer. But on he went, in his obnoxious way: "What about all these matzo purchases around Passover? What do you do with the crumbs?" "Ah, yes", replied the rabbi, realizing that the inspector was trying to trap him with an unanswerable question. Deciding to be a smartass about it, he continued, "We collect them and send them back to the manufacturer, and every few years they send us a free box of matzos". "I see", replied the auditor, thinking hard about how he could fluster the know-it-all rabbi. "Well, Rabbi", he went on, "what do you do with all the leftover foreskins from the circumcisions you perform?" "Here, too, we do not waste", answered the Rabbi. "What we do is save all the foreskins and send them to the tax office, and about once a year, they send us a complete dick".
- Wouldn't a synagogue be tax-exempt in the United States?
- There is a Soviet variant with a Party official.
- Robert Asprin:
- Phule's Paradise ends with this situation. Having been thwarted in their attempt to take over the casino Phule's Company was hired to protect, and are now part owners of, the bad guys are last seen chortling over the fact that Our Heroes will have come to the attention of the Tax Man.
- In A Phule and His Money, the Tax Man shows up...and it turns out that Beeker is, among other things, a galaxy-class accountant. By the end, the tax agents admit that they owe Phule a refund. This was almost certainly a specific Take That!: When A Phule and His Money was written, the IRS was garnishing writer Robert Asprin's income.
- Poul Anderson's Operation Luna has a subplot in which the protagonists' private spaceflight research firm gets audited by the IRS (because their enemies pulled some strings). The tax code is so complicated that they have to solicit advice from Mimir, guardian of the well of knowledge.
- In the New Testament of The Bible, particularly throughout the Gospels, certain professions are classified as sinful and worthy of hell simply by practicing them. What's the worst, vilest kind of sin-professional a person can possibly be? A prostitute? A pharisee? A torturer? No. A tax collector. (Why? Because they were the worst kind of traitor: they squeezed money out of their compatriots and handed it over to the Roman occupying forces. Even worse, they were legally allowed to be on the take, so they could overcharge people and keep the balance for themselves.)
- Jesus Himself refers to them whenever he needs an immediately recognizable example of an corrupt profession, saying things like, "You love the people who love you back? That's not so great; even the tax collectors do that!" The Gospel writers get in on it too, with Luke saying at one point, "When all the people and the tax collectors heard this..."
- Worth noting that at least two tax collectors are mentioned as being redeemed through Jesus' teachings, fitting the Christian philosophy that even the worst sinner can reform. One of them (Matthew) even became an Apostle. It also seems Jesus didn't have an issue with the concept of tax collection, as in Matthew's book, a group of Pharisees tried to entrap Jesus with questions on whether or not the people of Israel should pay Roman taxes, to which he replied "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's", so it's more Jesus took issue with people who abused their position as tax collectors.
- The Auditors of Reality are sometimes referred to as, essentially, the most ridiculously anal taxmen in the history of the universe. Particularly in Reaper Man, where Death is able to enlist a country woman's help by playing off her longstanding hatred of "the Revenoo" (her father was a smuggler).
- In Jingo, the nobles and guild leaders of Ankh-Morpork are gearing up for a war with Klatch, and are aghast to learn how broke the city is, demanding that Lord Vetinari explain this as once. Vetinari calmly points out that the city is full of rich people who simply don't pay their taxes, and produces a list of offenders (basically everyone in the room except for Vetinari and Vimes). Suddenly everyone in the room decides this isn't a very pressing matter after all.
- A E Pessimal, the Watch's accountant becomes this after he's sent to audit the Watch and tries to headbutt a troll resisting arrest, in exchange for being allowed to wear the badge and armor and go out on patrol sometimes.
- According to Night Watch, Mad Lord Winder privatized the city's tax system, meaning that the poor of Ankh-Morpork found themselves getting taxed for all manner of ludicrous things, up to and including "Lookin' at Me, Pal", and a very direct method of extracting the funds. Even though the city seemed to have no actual money, there was a lot of taxes being paid.note
- Invoked in Vorkosigan Saga; The emperor's personal troubleshooters have the title "Imperial Auditor", and they allegedly started out as the Emperor's tax auditors who were sent out to keep the Counts (Which allegedly was derived from 'Accountant' - they were the Emperor's tax collectors) honest. Over the centuries, their remit eventually expanded to investigating anything the Emperor wanted investigated that for whatever reason couldn't be handled through normal channels.
- Bloodline: Max Hornung in Switzerland's version of the IRS was so competent several businessmen tried and failed to bribe him. When one of them learned he desired to become a police detective, they pulled strings so he'd get the job. People cooperate with his investigations out of fear he'd find something on them. When he does have to find, he does find.
- Good Omens: Aziraphale, being a conscientious small-business owner, calculates and pays his taxes in a lawful and timely manner. Being an angel, he never makes mistakes or "mistakes". As a result, he's been audited five times, because the tax inspectors can't believe anyone would be both this perfect and this scrupulously honest.
- Astrid Lindgren was memorably asked to pay 102% of her income in 1976. This inspired her to write Pomperipossa in Monismania, drawing enough attention for Sweden to do a very thorough reworking of its tax agencies.
“Are you aware of the fact that your marginal tax rate this year is 102%?”
“You are talking nonsense”, Pomperipossa said. “That many percent does not exist!”
- The IRS is the Big Bad in the first book of Nancy Kress' Beggars in Spain trilogy; as the "Sleepless" are smarter than the smartest human and can work twice as many hours, this puts them in a superhuman tax bracket - whichever government holds their citizenship can claim a staggering 92% of their income.
- In Niven/Pournelle's Oath Of Fealty, one of the biggest benefits of living in the Todos Santos Arcology(aside from the lowest crime rate on the planet) is no one pays taxes — residents pay rent to the patron corporation, who employ an Army of Lawyers to exploit every loophole in the tax code.
- One The Stainless Steel Rat novel starts with Jim's wife being kidnapped by goons in black suits. Jim immediately goes to his twin sons' boarding school and demands that the principal graduate them immediately. The principal laughs at him and asks why. Jim explains that his diminutive wife can easily handle a dozen dumb Mooks without breaking a sweat. The only reason she allowed herself to be taken was to give Jim time to act, and he needs his boys to do that. The men who took her work for the planet's tax service. Upon hearing this, the principal immediately signs the twins' graduation forms and wishes Jim good luck. When they ask their father, he explains that the taxmen as the universally hated group on any world. Jim and his wife may be criminals, but they still have to pay taxes like everybody else. Jim and the twins end up breaking into the tax service's archives and destroying their files, thus eliminating any case the taxmen have against them.
- In Superheroes Anonymous, after being incarcerated at the end of the first book, Gail learns how supervillains are kept busy, processing tax returns. Yes, they're hired by the IRS. Some of them actually try to do their job. Most of them content themselves with the petty villainy of rejecting return after return.
- At the end of Unnatural Acts, Dan calls in the scariest people he can think of - the IRS - to take down the Smile Syndicate. This, from a zombie who regularly questions vampires, werewolves, demons and necromancers.
- Used in Esther Friesner's Elf Defense (wherein an elven king who will not quit pursuing his mortal once-lover is served with divorce papers). The fight...gets kind of nasty. Siccing the IRS on him for back taxes owed from his profits as a small-time rock star is when he finally gives up playing nice and gets serious.
- The premise of the series ''The Happy Bureaucracy" is that nuclear war wiped out all of the USA government... except the IRS, which still collects taxes, the apocalypse be damned. Most of their "audits" result in death of the taxpayer.
- The ninth Imager Portfolio novel has as one of the central conflicts a dispute between the Rex (King) and the High Holders (Nobility) about the tax rates, which turns into a high-stakes fiscal game of chicken thanks to a long standing law that nobody is required to pay their taxes for the current fiscal period until the tax laws for the next fiscal period have been finalized.
- Hell on Earth, the second of the Doom novels by Dafydd ab Hugh and Brad Linaweaver, reveals that the IRS has an armed "revenue collection" branch that counts itself among the Earth's military forces. Remember to pay your taxes, folks.
- Simon Templar takes on The Inland Revenue of the UK in the collection known as The Holy Terror (UK) or The Saint vs. Scotland Yard (US). Like virtually everyone else on this page, he pays up — though, being The Saint, he finds a creative way to do so.
- In Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger novel, The Time of the Transference, we encounter relentlessly sadistic demons representing the Inter-dimensional Reliquary of Spirits.
". . . Anyone who does not file is visited by representatives of the IRS - the Inter-dimensional Reliquary of Spirits. Us." Each word was uttered with utmost reverence by the demonic chorus.
"But he doesn't know how to file. Hell, he shouldn't have to file."
"Hell says otherwise. . . ."
- Our Miss Brooks: In "Mrs. Davis Reads Tea Leaves", Miss Brooks is aghast to discover she's recieved a letter from the IRS:
Miss Brooks: Collector of Internal Revenue! Not what's the matter with him! I paid my taxes in January!
- In an episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun the Solomons discover that they have to pay taxes after three years of blissful ignorance. After a funny attempt to commit fraud on their tax declaration, they get audited and get paranoid about the IRS blowing the Masquerade. Dick eventually decides to just confess that they're aliens who recently arrived on the planet, only for the agent to tell them he's heard that story many times before.
- The Twilight Zone (1959): The episode "The Man in the Bottle" depicts a couple who thanks to a genie get the chance to have four wishes granted. One of them is to get one million dollars. For a while they're rolling in it, but then an IRS agent shows up and confiscates 90% of it.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Better Than Life", Rimmer discovers that he owed several thousand (unspecified futuristic currency units) in tax when he left Earth, and is horrified.
Lister: Relax, it doesn't matter now. Not gonna catch you now, are they?
Rimmer: What? Just because we're three million years into deep space and the human species is extinct? That means nothing to these people. They'll find us.
- As it turns out, the tax department never does catch up with him, although later in the episode he has a nightmare vision of a taxman who threatens to smash his thumbs with a hammer if he doesn't pay up immediately.
- Also, in "Me2", Holly plays a prank on Lister claiming that spaceships from NORWEB are coming after him for his "crimes against humanity" (leaving a light on for three million years).note
- In The Honeymooners, Ralph is requested to come to the local tax office about a tax issue. Scared that he is in trouble for tax evasion, he scours every minor thing he gained over the year to declare to the tax rep. As it turns out, the tax rep is a nice, understanding man who reassures Ralph that he is satisfied his taxes are in proper order, he simply called Ralph in because he forgot to sign a check he submitted earlier to pay his taxes.
- Ellen gets audited in Slings & Arrows in the second season. Naturally she's terrified because she's an actress who's clueless about money (and marked off pretty much everything she bought as a work purchase). And ends up having to pay $27k back.
- Burn Notice: Played with in "Fearless Leader". Sam Axe, a retired Navy SEAL turned Private Detective (for lack of a better term) in the series, is displeased to be audited by the IRS for being a little too cavalier with deducting business expenses (turns out mojitos don't generally count). But it goes both ways this time: Sam has spent most of his life in other countries stealing stuff and killing people, c.f. the scene where Sam shows up to a meeting with a gun as proof of an apparently classified mission. Then Zig-Zagged even further when it turns out that the auditor's mother is one of Sam's exes and the auditor volunteered for the assignment to get back at Sam for leaving them when he was a kid.
Sam: Well, you wanted documentation of my trip to the Middle East. That’s it. That's all I got. Got it off this guy who was in this group we were targeting.
Stacey: Oh, so you stole it?
Sam: No, I didn't steal it. The guy, um... He was done with it.
Stacey: So it was a gift?
Sam: It's not a gift. There was this thing, and then the gun... didn't have an owner anymore. [makes gun-finger motion]
Stacey: [Beat; dawning realization that he's auditing a state-sponsored hitman] I... I'm just gonna mark that down as a... windfall... income.
- True Blood:
- Sophie Anne, the Vampire Queen of Louisiana, gets into trouble because with the end of the vampire masquerade, vampires are citizens and have to pay taxes. Since she does not want to cut back on her lavish lifestyle in desperation she has Eric sell vampire blood to humans which is very lucrative but taboo and very illegal in vampire society.
- Having to pay taxes is just one reason why many of the vampires are so unhappy with the vampire leadership forcing them to reveal themselves to the public.
- In Wiseguy Vinnie is unable to get the information he needed from one corrupt businessman. McPike then comes in and threatens the business owner, saying "I'm from the US Government, and the IRS eats guys like you for breakfast". They get the information very quickly.
- In an episode of The Greatest American Hero, an IRS field agent threatens everyone he meets with tax audits, and (because he really doesn't like Pam) subjects Pam to the dreaded Seven-Year Retroactive Audit — which in the world of this TV show is the worst thing the IRS can do to you short of throwing you in jail. Subverted when it turns out that the series of mysterious violent attacks the heroes have been suffering through are actually aimed at the agent, due to his aggressive investigation on an entirely unrelated case.
- The Corner Gas episode "Tax Man" has the Canada Customs and Revenue agent Marvin Drey (played by Kevin McDonald); who is kind, patient, and willing to give useful tips; but says people often treat him with hostility just because of his job. Unfortunately, he was sent to get tax information out of Oscar, who is already hostile to everyone just because he's Oscar, and is extra hostile to Marvin on top of that.
- I'm Alan Partridge: Alan receives a routine visit from two income tax auditors. He has nothing to worry about but can't help getting overly stressed over the undeclared gift of a bathrobe from Bill Oddie.
- Parks and Recreation gives us Ron Swanson's first ex-wife Tammy 1, an IRS auditor who makes his already-scary second ex-wife (the hotnote but evil and frightening director of the Pawnee Public Library) Tammy 2 run in fear and turns Ron into a gentle, docile pussycat (as opposed to Tammy 2, who turns him into a sex fiend).
- In Mad Men Season 5, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs hits Lane Pryce with a very large tax bill. He has been living and working in the US for a while now and he has been paying taxes to the US government instead. Since there are no tax treaties in place yet, he is double taxed because of his expatriate status. Logically he should have just stayed out of Britain until he could settle the matter (although that would have been rather hard to explain to his wife, who had no idea about his money troubles and had been counting on going to England at least once a year), but instead he panics and in his desperation embezzles the money from the agency. And then when Don Draper finds out, he gives Lane an ultimatum: resign or I'll expose you to the partners, driving Lane to suicide.
- The Golden Girls:
- Blanche was about to be audited for evasion, something that she freely admitted to (she had failed to report the rental income she received from the three other women). Her brilliant plan to get out of this, was of course, to seduce the agent. So the day of the audit arrives and she's dressed in a slinky lingerie. . .only for the agent to be a stern, no-nonsense, woman. A deflated Blanche meekly invites her into the kitchen so that she can write her a check. (Given Blanche's legendary promiscuity, sending a female agent was no doubt deliberately done on the IRS's part, knowing that she would have easily done away with a man).
- In another episode, Dorothy is in danger of jail time because of tax problems, but the IRS guy is actually a Reasonable Authority Figure; the guy you should blame here is Stan, who caused the whole crisis while they were married by doing a lot of stupid and unwise things, like buying a car and trying to deduct the payments as business expenses. (And not even telling her he bought it.) When Stan is afraid of going to prison, Dorothy lashes out at him, saying, "I want you to go to prison, Stan. And I hope a six-foot tall, bald convict named 'Bubba' chooses you as his girlfriend!" (At the end of the episode, Stan pays off the debt and makes peace with her - for the moment - by selling the car.)
- The Odd Couple (1970) has an episode where Felix is summoned to the IRS office for an unstated reason and he is distraught that he is in trouble. As it turns out, Felix merely forgot to sign his payment check, but in his panic, he unintentionally lets it slip that Oscar has been filing some shady returns and the IRS has no choice but to arrange a tax audit. Felix makes up for it by delving into Oscar's records and making the IRS admit that they owed him money — Oscar had neglected to take a deduction for his alimony payments.
- In "The Girl in Question", Spike (a vampire who has committed hundreds of murders in the past) is still miffed about that time the Immortal got him arrested for tax evasion.
- In "Just Rewards", Angel got a powerful necromancer who had taken control of him and was about to kill him to back down by calling in the IRS to liquidate his assets.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
- The Ferengi Commerce Authority (FCA) fills this role for the Ferengi. The FCA is so powerful in their hyper-capitalist society that it borders on being State Sec, having the influence to depose the Grand Nagus and Liquidator Brunt hounded Quark for years to make his life miserable. Jeffrey Combs said that he played Brunt as being "the IRS man from Hell" - like being played by Jeffrey Combs wasn't evil enough.
- A holodeck version appears in "It's Only a Paper Moon", when Nog, traumatized after being wounded in the Dominion War, retreats into Vic Fontaine's 1962-Vegas simulation. Along the way toward nudging him back toward the real world, Fontaine gets Nog to apply his financial acumen to help with the casino's tax troubles. Nog ends up getting the IRS to admit that Fontaine is actually owed a huge refund.
- Invoked at one point by Garak, who claims that he was exiled from Cardassia for not paying taxes. But it's Garak, so the claim naturally has little basis in reality. Notably, Garak is called on the lie not because his claim that the Cardassian Revenue Service would exile him and then bomb his store was too ludicrous. (Sisko and Odo find it reasonable that on Cardassia, their IRS would either exile or bomb, though rarely both). They call BS because while the details weren't known, everyone by now knew Garak was exiled for something he did while with the State Sec and not tax evasion.
- The Dick Van Dyke Show: In "The Impractical Joke", a tax man shows up at the office, looking for Buddy. Suspecting that Rob must have hired someone to mess with him as revenge for an earlier Prank Call, Buddy tears the guy's papers up, only for Rob to tell him he didn't have anything to do with it. Buddy acts noticeably subdued when they get the man to return.
- Implied at the end of the Mission: Impossible episode "The Counterfeiter". After the team tricks the titular counterfeiter into confessing about making phony medicine, he claims that all they'll be able to do to him is give him a trivial fine (Forging pharmaceuticals being a minor crime in-universe). Then Phelps points out that he also confessed to the magnitude of his counterfeiting operation, which implies that he's made a significant amount of money off of his fake drugs, which he hadn't reported on his income tax forms.
- An early Alice episode has Alice discovering that she owes the government in taxes her deceased husband failed to pay, and then having to deal with an IRS agent who tries to apply Sexual Extortion on her.
- Discussed on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver during a segment about The IRS. Everybody thinks of insulting IRS employees as acceptable, but John Oliver explains that IRS employees are not a bunch of evil Obstructive Bureaucrats who take all your money, but an underfunded, understaffed, overworked group of Beleaguered Bureaucrats who are Just Following Orders - and not orders from their superiors in the IRS, but orders given to them by Congress; orders that they are constantly changing.
- The Rick Mercer Report did a short segment called "Knee in my Package'' (a parody of the Capital One ads) reminding all Canadians that it's tax season, and that they'd better pay up, or else the CRAnote is coming for them. To knee them in the junk.
- Breaking Bad:
- A variation comes when Skyler panics that Ted is being audited by the IRS and is exasperated at his inability to process that he is facing a prison sentence for cooking his books. However, it's not the tax fraud itself she's worried about; the IRS' extremely high success rates at prosecution are because they have the power to audit and put surveillance on any people who might be connected to the fraud, and even a brief look at her will quickly reveal that she's laundering money, which will lead to much more serious charges than tax fraud when her husband's drug empire gets unearthed. To save herself from an audit, she plays up a Dumb Blonde persona to convince the inspector that the irregularities are incompetence rather than fraud, and then sends a couple of thugs to intimidate her ex-boss into letting her pay his fine with her husband's money.
- Saul Goodman definitely treats the IRS like this when explaining the concept of money laundering to Jesse:
- Hunter: Rick Hunter finds himself being audited by a visiting IRS accountant (played by James Cromwell) who is quite annoyed by Hunter's habit of paying police informants out of his own pocket and falsely declaring it as business expenses. Da Chief is initially amused by this, but quickly becomes a target of the accountant himself.
- In one episode of Eerie, Indiana, Marshall uses a perfect disguise kit to pretend to be an IRS agent and get back all the townfolks' souls which had been swindled away by a demonic businessman.
- Invoked in Warehouse 13: The IRS is the one organization that everyone wants to stay the hell away from.
- NCIS: Gibbs and Fornell's ex-wife Dianne Sterling winds up working for the IRS. When they wind up getting tangled up in an investigation she's running, Fornell gets shot and she is upset about their "meddling". It's only after they arrest her and bring her down to NCIS HQ that they learn she's legitimately carrying a taxman's badge.
- In Leverage The IRS is the go-to means of helping clients get windfalls for financial crimes or punishing those who may have skipped filing the proper paperwork. The team uses the fact that people who report felonious tax activity to the agency gets a share of the recovered money.
- In episode one of season two, a banker's actions results in the team discovering tha client's bank was being used by the Mob to shelter the players by pretending to be legitimate businesses and this had been going on for 30 years, he gets a massive reward.
- In episode two of season 2, after scaring a corrupt gym owner who runs illegal fights and collects bets from his competitions into running, the team alerts the IRS to his unclaimed revenue to help take him down.
- In season four, "The Gone Fishing Job", the villains invoke this trope and its worst aspects by pretending to be IRS agents and steal money from delinquent people but who might be on a payment plan. The episode opens with the villain confronting the woman and daughter at night at her home and threatening her with eviction all in a formal-but-borde tone, scaring her into giving him a credit card. The money stolen is being sent to fund an anti-government militia.
- Reba: In season 5, Brock and Reba are audited by the IRS as a result of Brock having unknowingly donated to a scam charity in the Cayman islands back when he and Reba were still married and even though he pulled out his money after finding out it was an illegal tax shelter, he never paid the money to the government. While Reba and Brock are able to lie their way through it, Barbra Jean blabs everything to the agents and as a result, Reba and Brock owe the government $75,000.
- In one episode of I Spy, Robinson and Scott are sent to deal with an oriental businessman who wishes to retire in his homeland, but the IRS is blocking his request for an exit visa until he pays his overdue taxes.
- In one episode of The Monkees, the gang finds a monkey's paw, only to get in trouble through careless wishing. They ultimately break the paw's curse by giving it to someone else. Said man wishes for a million dollars, and is arrested by the IRS for not reporting this income less than a minute later.
- In an episode of Green Acres, it's revealed that none of the residents of Hooterville and the surrounding area (other than Sam Drucker and the Douglasses) have ever paid income tax. Due to the combination of a computer error and a misunderstanding of how tax refunds work on the part of the farmers, they all end up getting huge refunds in the five-figure range (keep in mind this was the late '60s), leading to an investigation for tax fraud by the IRS.
- In one episode of Barney Miller ("Chinatown: Part 1") an IRS agent is threatening to take away some money without giving the person a trial. When Barney suggests that that sounds unconstitutional, the IRS agent merely laughs as if Barney has made a joke.
- Get Smart: There are a couple of gags where the Bureau of Internal Revenue are portrayed as torturers worse than any intelligence agency.
- Surprisingly averted on, of all shows, Roseanne. An episode taking place on April 15th (Appropriately titled "April Fool's Day") has Dan and Roseanne struggling to compile their taxes at the last minute and having to go to the IRS office to clarify some unclear instructions. The staff running the place are all clearly Beleaguered Bureaucrats struggling with an unreasonable workload in a job that, like the ones Roseanne herself often has, isn't fun, glamorous, or makes you well-liked.
- In The Cosby Show episode "Theo's Holiday", Dr. Huxtable simulates Theo's "regular people" job with Monopoly money. He gives Theo $1,200 for monthly income, and then immediately takes $350 of it back.
Cliff: Yeah, because, see, the government comes for the "regular people" first.
- Young Sheldon: In "Mitch's Son and the Unconditional Approval of a Government Agency", George is angry at Sheldon because his meddling got them audited. The auditor doesn't intimidate Sheldon much, until he tricks him into confessing that he's being paid (in toy trains) even though he's not a professional tax preparer.
- Radio Enfer: When Laplante tries to find out how Carl, Maria, and Léo cheated on an exam, he claims that he made people tougher than Léo talked before. Carl sarcastically asks if it was during the Vietnam War or when he was working for the CIA, like Laplante claimed to have done. The latter replies that it was when he was working as a taxman.
- The Beatles' song "Taxman", although it's about British taxes instead of U.S. taxes, is all about this trope.
"If you drive a car, I'll tax the street
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat;
If you get too cold, I'll tax the heat;
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet."
- Also contains the (entirely correct, at the time the song was written) line "There's one for you and nineteen for me", referring to the 95% tax bracket.
- Mentioned in the song Somebody's Watching Me by Rockwell:
I wonder who's watching me now (Who?). The IRS?!
- Dr. Drenote once mentioned in his Behind the Music episode that he doesn't "fear anybody, but God, and the IRS.".
- In 1991, WWE brought back Mike Rotunda from WCW and repackaged him into Irwin R. Schyster, or IRS, the evil wrestling taxman. He wrestled in suspenders, long pants, glasses and a long-sleeved shirt. He appeared in vignettes where he offered "Tax Tips", explaining what people could and could not write off, although he usually accused everybody, particularly his opponents, of being tax cheats. His finishing moves included the "Write-Off" (a flying lariat, or clothesline), and the "Penalty" (STF, short for "Stepover Toehold with Facelock.") In early 1992, he formed a Tag Team with "The Million-Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase that, after they defeated The Legion of Doom for the WWE World Tag Team Titles, would be named "Money Inc." Rotunda continued the role following DiBiase's retirement in 1993 until he returned to WCW in September 1995. He brought it back a few times since WWE hired him as a road agent (he retired in 2004), including in the 15th Anniversary Raw battle royal on the December 15, 2007 episode. IRS won the match, but DiBiase walked out and offered IRS a briefcase of money; IRS accepted and eliminated himself, giving DiBiase the win.
- This is Played for Laughs when The Undertaker was giving a promo on the last Monday Night RAW before his match against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX. Undertaker then made this quote during his promo:
(...) Three things that can’t be beat – Death, Taxes, and The Streak.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The cover of Dragon magazine #48◊, with a diabolical IRS agent awaiting the exit of two treasure-bearing adventurers from a dungeon.
- Adventure WG7 Castle Greyhawk. The NPC Fudge the Incessant waits at the entrance/exit to the dungeons to collect a tax from any adventurers leaving the dungeons with treasure. He automatically spots any attempt to sneak valuables past him.
- One of The Munchkin's Guide to Power Gaming's suggestions for dealing with a dragon is pretending that you're the IRS come to audit its hoard. "Even dragons don't mess with the IRS. It's suicide."
- One of the scariest cards in Munchkin is not the plutonium dragon or Cthulhu, but "Income Tax", everyone loses items then.
- Warhammer 40,000
- The Imperium of Man practically operates on this principle. Everyone from the lowest menial, to a planetary governor, to the even the Space Marines have to deal with some form of tax or tithe. Failure to pay you debt can result in punishments ranging from beatings and forced conscription, to the planet being reclassified into a prison planet, to outright war and Exterminatus. Even when said tax is paid in full, one can still be placed under a Inquisitorial Audit due to how much of a bureaucratic mess the Imperium is.
- The Tithe Prefectus (the division of the Adeptus Administratum in charge of tax collection) is a potential Patron for characters in the Cubicle 7 RPG Imperium Maledictum. A special boon for characters with this Patron is the ability to make Audit Threats for an intimidation bonus (and if necessary to carry them through, to summon a number of helper NPC characters to support you). All characters are also supplied with some kind of weapon for the inevitable encounter with the myriad methods people die violently in the Warhammer 40K universe.
- Vampire: The Masquerade: One of the commandments of Caine, as written in the Book of Nod, is "There will always be Caesar, pay him his due." That's right, the Father of Vampires, one of the most powerful beings in existence second only to elder demons and Big G himself, commanded his children to not provoke the anger of the dreaded IRS.
- In The Comedy of Errors, Dromio says that the time went from 2 PM to 1 PM after he talked to a tax collector because even time itself is afraid of having its debts collected.
- Arknights: If Ambriel's fear of encountering Executor in your base is any indication, her home country of Laterano takes Tax Evasion very seriously.
- In Day of the Tentacle, IRS agents arrive at Dr Fred's mansion and leave him tied up in the attic (with red tape) while they audit his accounts.
- Subverted in Mass Effect 2. C-sec Captain Bailey tells Shepard that one of the hoops (s)he'd have to jump through to get his/her legal status changed from "dead" to "alive" is a visit to the tax office, because "spending a year dead" is a popular tax dodge. Then, because that would make for boring gameplay, he offers to just fix everything for him/her, since not even a Spectre, dead or otherwise, can make dealing with the Space IRS any less painful..
- Gaia Online's Ivan the Tax Man started out playing this trope straight, introducing Chance Items he'd repossessed from unusual entities, and threatening to repo the shopkeeper NPCs' stores as part of the "Save Our Shops" event. However, he became unexpectedly popular with the fans, and has since become a more sympathetic character.
- Renon from Castlevania 64 starts out as a demon shopkeeper; you can use his contract to summon him if you should happen to find it lying around, and purchase any supplies you need. Just before the final boss, he shows up to let you know you won't see him ever again, but how the story plays out depends on your spending habits; if you were thrifty, he tells you a war is brewing elsewhere, which will give better profit margins than selling chicken drumsticks to a single adventurer. If you spent more than 30000 gold, he reveals that there was some fine print in the contract (that the player could not read because it was written in a demonic language); specifically, there's a tax on his services that he has to collect now, and that tax is your soul! Cue fighting for your very life.
- The Project Moon universe (Lobotomy Corporation, Library of Ruina, Limbus Company) has the top-dogs in the universe be Arbiters, the chief enforcers of the Head of the Wings of the World, who have access to every Singularity (magic-like technology that each Wing has some degree of control over) who are generally sent in as per the Head's taboos, which are few, but they are called in if broken. One of the biggest taboos is not filing your taxes on time, which generally gets you sent an enforcer who uses the most powerful abilities in the setting like its from a spellbook, and eats Color Fixers for breakfast.
- Strike Commander. Played painfully straight - they are now the de-facto government of the United States, and have the power to exercise military force to collect debts!
- In The Tomb of the TaskMaker, the Eyearrass dungeon (say it out loud) is filled with evil Taxmen who, instead of attacking you, will deplete your money.
- Innocent Until Caught begins with the protagonist being captured by the I.R.D.S. (Interstellar Revenue Decimation Service) and being threatened with Cruel and Unusual Death unless he can pay his back taxes within 28 days.
- One of Scrooge's lines in DuckTales Remastered when being chased makes reference to this trope. "It just keeps coming! It's like running from the IRS!"
- Averted in Pharaoh: The tax collector isn't a particularly evil or threatening man, at best he suffers from Pragmatic Villainy when complaining about working lower-class neighborhoods, which simply don't produce enough to be worthwhile (considering how much money you can make from taxes by keeping people happy and well-housed, he has a point).
- One event in Halcyon 6 has the Yablings decide to collect on humankinds debts, and with Earth taken over by an Eldritch Abomination, that responsibility lies on you, if you refuse they send the Revenue Fleet after you. Fortunately, Yabling law allows for nullifying debt after a trial by space combat.
- The Kollector from Mortal Kombat 11 plays this role to Shao Kahn, and seeks riches and political power under the tyrant; that should tell you everything you need to know about this avaricious assassin.
Kollector: Tarkata must pay tribute...
Baraka: We pay in blood, not gold!
Kollector: Shao Kahn demands both.
- In The Witcher 3, if the player finds themselves having over 35k crowns, they will receive a visit from an unfriendly tax collector who will ask Geralt questions indirectly related to (now patched) money exploits and depending on his answers, stick him with a back taxes bill.
- The Most Epic Story Ever Told in All of Human History: In "The Most Epic Crime-Stopping Mission Ever", Captain Epic threatens to arrest Epic-Man for being late on filing his taxes. Epic-Man is forced to flee the crime scene he was trying to help with because of this.
- One of DevilArtemis' "Cell Vs." videos features a conversation between Cell and Kermit where the former (who can destroy planets, mind you) relates that he refused the rights to his arena for the Cell Games to the IRS from not paying his property taxes.
Kermit: Welp. It was nice knowing you, Cell.
- Some of the superheroes in Super Stupor get roped into working for the IRS to make up for their own tax issues.
Tork try to claim his tiny human side as dependent. That shit? It not fly so well.
- One arc of Galacticat has a scary looking guy who hires the protagonists' cab to take him to several places of business, where he tells the owners to pay what they owe and beats them up and destroys the place if they don't. At the end he is asked if he's a Loan Shark or something, and it turns out he's actually an IRS agent.
- Housepets!: Cerberus threatens the Milton ferrets with an audit if Rock doesn't take Tarot, Sabrina and Bailey home from Australia with them.
- In clanky4's Fallout: New Vegas and The Frontier YouTube Poops, General Lee Oliver, President Aaron Kimball and the NCR in general are depicted as being extremely obsessed with taxes, and go to comical lengths to collect them. Meanwhile, Robert House is the Mojave's greatest tax evader.
- The Daily WTF story "Fallen Dynasty" includes this passage near the end:
There were two key phrases that lead him to pay full attention: "Howard Thurstone, IV" and "IRS Raid". The former for obvious reasons, and the second because he was largely unaware that the IRS conducted raids. Audits... of course. But armed IRS agents storming in with flak jackets and bankers boxes? He always thought that was the FBI, or something. As it turns out, the IRS frowns upon deducting non-business items. They tend to get upset when you don't report income. They tend to get really pissed when you generate fake invoices, embezzle property from your own company, sell it for cash, and then write-off the "lost" property. That, apparently, can trigger a full-on raid.
- Life SMP: Discussed in Season 2, Last Life SMP, where LDShadowLady tames three wolves on Day 1 and names them after things that scare people — "Dragon", "Ogre", and "Taxes".
- In NitroRad's review of Starshot: Space Circus Fever, James notes how harsh the Galactic Bank's punishment (getting blown up with a bomb) is for not repaying back a debt in time and wonders what it would be like if the IRS did the same thing. Smash Cut to a skit of him strapping a bomb to Brady, only saying "You have ten days."
- In Sethical's videos, Bank Bill is an accountant at the United Bank of Money. Baku keeps putting off paying back his loans despite blowing off his money on things like the newest iPhone and YEEZY, which culminates in Bank Bill going to Baku's house and threatening to shoot him if he doesn't pay up right now. Lil' Broomstick shows up with a bucket of money that Bank Bill ends up taking.
- Two Best Friends Play Pat mentions during a Naruto LP that while country personal spies and monitoring agency are scary the revenue service are gonna get their goddamn money and you better run if you can't pay.
- In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Joker's Millions", The Joker inherits a small fortune from a rival gangster and lives a life of luxuries and general happiness until he receives a letter from the IRS demanding, well, taxes. Cue desperate attempts to raise the money to pay the IRS as a large chunk of the money was fake, as a final screw you from the dead gangster to the Joker, and he cannot just admit that to the government without becoming the laughingstock of the criminal world.
Joker: I'm crazy enough to take on Batman, but the IRS? No-o-o-o, thank you!
- Harley Quinn inverts the above example by having the Joker successfully become mayor of Gotham, upon which he has Bruce Wayne arrested for tax evasion. He willingly submits to it in order to show the public that nobody's above the law.
- In Danny Phantom, this is almost a running joke. In one episode, a doctor (Bertrand in disguise) convinces all the parents, including the Fentons, to let him take their kids to an abandoned hospital by threatening to audit their taxes. The Guys In White pull much the same thing later on.
- The Simpsons:
- "The Trouble with Trillions": Homer whips out a quick tax return by guestimating things as obvious as the number of his kids and ends up getting a severe audit. When called in, he's scared out of his mind and tries to give every excuse under the sun ("an older boy made me do it", etc.), but is ultimately enlisted as a government spy. Everyone else in Springfield got generous refunds. Homer would have too if the football-shaped mess that was his taxes hadn't fallen into the "Severe Audit" bin.
- In "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington", the Simpsons pass by the IRS Building in Washington D.C.
IRS Worker: [looking out the window] Aw, boo yourself!
- "Behind the Laughter", a Behind the Music parody showing the Simpson family as actors, has this as a plot point, where the IRS shows up and airlifts their mansion away after they're tipped off that the Simpsons weren't paying their income tax properly. Ironically, the mansion originally belonged to MC Hammer, another celebrity known for his huge money troubles.
- In "Bart the Fink", Bart accidentally causes Krusty to be exposed as a serial tax-dodger going back decades. This causes the IRS to seize all of Krusty's assets and take 95 percent of his future earnings (it'd be 75 for the next 40 years but Krusty said he didn't plan to live that long). They took over his show and Krusty Burger (renamed IRS Burger and with a tax theme). Though Krusty does plenty to deserve it, the IRS are portrayed as vindictive and/or incompetent, using his assets in ways that are both humiliating and unprofitable (like selling his family heirlooms and awards for literal pocket change). All of this reaches the point where Krusty eventually fakes his death.
- Averted in an episode of Family Guy. Peter goes into the IRS for his audit, expecting to be dragged over the coals. His auditor turns out to be a perfectly kind and friendly woman and in the end, Peter owes nothing, though unfortunately, was not receiving a refund.
- An episode of The Jetsons had George and Jane winning a large amount of money at the race track thanks to a pair of glasses capable of seeing the near future and then being alerted to some intimidating characters in the crowd. They're told that the two ominous men always demand their cut of the winnings. Fearing that the two shady characters are gangsters or something, George and Jane fly home in their car, followed all the way by the ominous men and breaking the glasses during the chase. Finally, George and Jane are cornered by them in their garage, where the men tell them they're from the Interspace Revenue Service. George breathes a sigh of relief, but is dismayed to find out they end up taking most of their winnings, leaving them with just two dollars.
- In one part of the first VeggieTales Christmas special, Larry the Cucumber is waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. While waiting, he receives several other visitors, one after the other: a bank robber, a Viking, and an IRS agent. In the spirit of Christmas, Larry invites the bank robber inside for milk and cookies; the same happens with the Viking. The IRS agent gets the door slammed in his face. (The IRS agent does make off with the last of the cookies, though.)
- The Biker Mice from Mars episode "My Cheese is Quick", The Biker Mice and Charley discover that Limburger has been dodging taxes ever since he came to Earth, so Charley reports him to the IRS, who proceeds to confiscate all of Limburgers assets. To avoid justice, and get back at Charley, he faked his death and framed Charley for "murdering" him. The mice brought Limburger back, clearing Charley's name. Limburger managed to get away with the frame-up, but the IRS agents, upon learning Limburger was still alive, proceeded with the confiscation by taking away Limburger Plaza with helicopters. Limburger claimed that he had power and influence, to which the IRS representative responded that Al Capone also had those, and look at what happened to him. (See the Real Life section of the trope for details)
- A mistake caused by a tax agent caused Rock Zilla to lose his fortune in the Broke Episode of My Dad the Rock Star. He got it back in the end.
- The episode "Team Impossible" of Kim Possible had her father having trouble calculating his taxes. He might be an actual rocket scientist, but he is not a rocket scientist (yes, he says that) and he never does manage to get it right. Thankfully, Kim manages to get him a CPA to help out at the end of the episode.
"Numbers aren't the only thing I crunch."
- Willie Nelson's legal troubles with the IRS are well-known, but the first season of King of the Hill exaggerated it, showing his estate being used by IRS agents for recreational use and him living in a trailer parked outside it.
- The Jeepers And Creepers cartoon "Busy Buddies" (1961, Paramount) has Creepers on the hook for a large tax bill and no way to pay for it. Jeepers enters him in a boxing match, which thanks to a little chicanery Creepers wins and collects the prize money. He pays it off—along with late fees and interest — to an IRS agent (who happens to be waiting for him outside the boxing arena). But now Creepers owes for the money he just won.
- The Beatles are at the revenue service shelling out bags of money at tax time (episode "Taxman"). They get knocked out cold by errant bags and dream they're helping Robin Hood in his fight against the Sheriff of Nottingham.
- Popeye is Robin Hood in the cartoon "Robin Hoodwinked", and Bluto is the villainous official of what his vehicle is labeled the "Infernal Revenue Service."
- Duckman once had to deal with the IRS, more specifically a Clint Eastwood-esque IRS agent who had a personal grudge against him for his sloppy and incredibly spotty tax filing. Ironically, Duckman's debt wasn't even particularly big, about 27.000 dollars, but the agents treat him like the biggest tax cheat since Al Capone.
- In the very first scene of Dan Vs., Dan wakes up to a supermodel at his door and assumes that she's from the IRS.
- Archer: In Season 8, "Dreamland", Lana turns out to be an IRS Treasury Agent working undercover while investigating the economic crimes of mob boss Mother. Much to her dismay, no one who finds out ever seems to be very impressed (or they think that "T-Man" is slang for transexual), and Linette just makes fun of her when she points out the IRS got Al Capone put away.
Lana: He died in prison because of the IRS!
Linette: No, he died in prison because of syphilis.note
- In Black Dynamite, if you get too far behind on taxes, the IRS will hunt you down and kill you. According to Black Dynamite's accountant, they can't be bargained with, they can't be reasoned with, they don't feel pity or remorse or fear, and they absolutely will not stop ever until you are dead, broke, or in jail. He dies from an IRS agent's rocket launcher moments later, and when BD visits his grave later on another IRS agent shows up to demand payment and says for every one agent he kills, two more will take his place.
- In Wabbit: A Looney Tunes Production, in the second episode where The Grim Reaper hounds Bugs for his soul, the former wins several million dollars from the lottery and is later abducted by the IRS just as he has Bugs cornered.
- In Regular Show, the IRS is the Monster of the Week of the episode "Don" as they send the house to the Phantom Zone over Pops and Rigby messing up the park's annual tax filing.
Computer: YOU ARE LATE. BEGIN AUDIT.
- South Park: In "Cartmanland", Cartman inherits $1 million from his deceased grandmother and uses the entire sum to buy a failing theme park. After he turns the park into a rousing success, he sells it back to its original owner (Cartman originally bought the park because he's such a selfish brat he wanted an entire theme park to himself without having to deal with crowds or lines, and the "success" was due to him eventually having to allow paying customers to pay for repairs, security, etc. Once it was full of customers, he didn't want it anymore, and idiotically sold it for the same amount he bought it for). He is then approached by three IRS agents who seize every last penny from him. The agent who orders this tells Cartman that half is due to tax fraud. He owes the rest, along with an additional $13,000 he can't pay, to Kenny's family because they filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Cartman after Kenny died on one of the rides. The agent even says, "See you in court."
- Even Bugs Bunny has been beaten by the IRS. In the Merrie Melodies short Hare Brush, Elmer has apparently gone insane and believes he's a rabbit. He bribes Bugs with carrots to take his place in a psychiatric hospital, where the doctor "cures" him by hypnotizing him into believing that he is Elmer. Bugs (dressed as Elmer) then goes on to hunt Elmer (dressed as Bugs), and at first suffers the same kind of cartoon mishaps that Elmer does when he hunts Bugs. Eventually, Bugs does manage to catch Elmer, but before he can fire his gun, Bugs-as-Elmer is arrested by IRS agents because Elmer owes over $300,000 in back taxes.
Elmer: I may be a scwewy wabbit, but I'm not going to Alcatwaz!
- American income taxes are typically considered, especially by honest and law-abiding citizens, a maddeningly, obstructively difficult process to write out and calculate. People without the money to hire an accountant tend to never quite feel they've gotten it right, always worrying about whether they took too large a deduction or could have gotten a slightly larger refund.
- This has gotten a bit better in the Information Age, with computer-based systems making it relatively easy to file your taxes, walking you through the process and ensuring all portions are completed accurately. In fact, today it is advised to electronically file your return, as it will get processed faster (with direct deposit and e-filing, turnaround can be as little as a week), and prevents transcription errors (as today, all that happens with a paper form is that a clerk transcribes it into the e-filing system). Of course, this comes with the unfortunate side effect of the companies owning said systems (such as Turbotax) lobbying the federal government to keep tax filing complicated so they don't go out of business.
- The complexity of tax returns tends to be exaggerated in fiction, where someone who works as an employee has to file a return hundreds of pages thick, while in real life even if they filed the long form it would be two sheets of paper (plus their W-2), with the numbers copied off the W-2 and mortgage interest statement. And they always make a mad rush for the post office on April 15th, rather than filing for an extension or e-filing. This is partly because bureaucracy in general and tax collectors in particular have always been high on the list of acceptable targets. Another factor is that Most Writers Are Writers — writers who work as independent contractors really do have complicated tax returns because they need to document all their business expenses.
- Another factor is that the IRS (along with the Secret Service, which was originally created to deal with counterfeiting crimes and still does to this day) is one of the most successful law enforcement agencies in the United States (most Federal level law enforcement agencies are ridiculously successful). In fact, the reason the Secret Service has its most famous job of Presidential Protection is because they were ridiculously good compared to other federal agencies when they were looking for the agency for the task. The US government puts a lot of investment into making sure it isn't getting cheated out of its money... except by people wealthy enough to be writing the laws.
- The apparently-insanity of American tax collection is best examined when juxtaposed with other First World countries. In most European countries, the tax collection agency in question will send you a notice about how much you owe (or how much you're being refunded), and you only have to file something if you disagree. Basically, the tax agency says "You owe us X money, and if that's wrong, prove it". In the US, despite the fact that the IRS knows everything already, the statement is "Figure out how much you owe us, and if you're wrong, you're in trouble". The backwards nature of the program is not helped by the fact that attempts have been made to change to much easier systems in the past, and been shut down by various lobbies (the IRS themselves would love to go to a simpler system, but must abide the laws created by Congress).
- Infamously, when Al Capone was brought to justice it was on charges of of tax evasion. However, that was because nothing else would stick, since he had such good lawyers/intimidation that none of the more serious charges would stand up to court scrutiny. Ironically, Capone frequently mocked the IRS, saying that because you didn't file earnings that you made illegally, they couldn't touch him (he went to prison, got out after serving his time, and died of syphilis seven years later).
- This is becoming more and more SOP for police investigations of notorious and/or leading criminals with a lot of conspicuous consumption- the police invite the IRS to look over the suspect's holdings to see if they owe any back taxes. The IRS is only too happy to insist that criminals pay taxes on their ill-gotten gains (as Capone learned the hard way)- the only thing they can't require is disclosure of the income source (as that would run afoul of the Fifth Amendment prohibition on self-incrimination). Invariably, many criminals haven't paid their taxes, and the IRS will gladly seize any and all of their assets for payment of the back taxes and the associated penalties.
- In the United States, the courts have ruled that the purpose of the tax laws are to collect taxes on income, not to punish other unlawful behavior. They have also ruled that reporting illegal income is not "self-incrimination", since you aren't being asked to confess to any specific crime. If you rob a bank you are expected to pay taxes on the loot you get away with. It is even permissible to claim the cost of the weapons and masks you wore as deductions on income!
- Wesley Snipes was imprisoned for attempting to evade taxes using frivolous arguments, and, allegedly, attempting to pay his taxes by printing his own money. The IRS and the Tax Courts have heard all the various "tax protester" arguments over and over, to the point that even using them will not only guarantee you losing the case, but net you a nice shiny contempt of court charge for even trying to argue those particular points.
- Richard Nixon was infamous for using the IRS as a weapon against his political enemies, which is one specific reason the IRS is no longer entirely beholden to the federal government (they represent it, but do not necessarily answer directly to it). Other presidents have been accused of doing the same thing. True or not, it's a very serious allegation, and one does best not to trifle with the system. Others, as recently as 2009, have drawn sharp criticism for joking about auditing their opposition, which is really not a very funny joke at all, especially to those who are the opposition.
- Mostly inverted by countries that use pay-as-you-go tax (taxes are withheld from your pay, at which point you claim back your deductions.) Just don't make too many furphies on your tax return...
- If you think the IRS is intimidating you should read up on the United States Revenue Cutter Service. A part of the US Treasury department created not long after the Revolutionary War, it was initially responsible with combating smuggling, piracy and doing stuff the Coast Guard does today (in fact this service was the ancestor of today's US coast guard), but its ships wound up fighting with distinction in actual stand up wars against other nations and between 1790 and 1798 it was the only service America had capable of fighting on the ocean.
- The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is a tough law enforcement agency that uses its own trained and armed response units. It was also part of the Treasury Department until 2002. The bureau was originally formed to enforce taxes on alcohol, tobacco and firearms, and it was obvious from the beginning that such enforcement was especially dangerous.
- In Brazil, the tax service chose the lion as the mascot for the income tax, as it represents strength, justice and an animal that's "tame but not foolish." The nickname stuck, but probably due to the lion being a predator as ferocious as the tax itself.
- Many, many, many boxers have been screwed over by the IRS. This is partly because they came from poverty and don't know how taxes work and mainly because they are terrible with money. A good example of the former is Joe Louis giving his fight purse to the army as charity and not filing the correct paper work, ultimately getting screwed over hard in the process. Sugar Ray Robinson and Mike Tyson are definitely the latter.
- It isn't just boxers- many professional athletes in general can owe millions in back taxes as one of many financial problems (often leading to bankruptcy) despite making millions of dollars annually. The reasons behind them are as various as the problems and eventual fates-see Broke, an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on the subject.
- Many athletes who don't play team sports (e.g. boxers, pro wrestlers, golfers, tennis players) live in Florida due to the warm weather and the lack of state income tax.note
- Played straight and subverted with Derek Jeter. As an active player for the New York Yankees he tried claiming residence in Florida to avoid New York State's high income tax rate. Unfortunately, due to the length of the baseball season, even without the long post season runs his teams were accustomed to, he lost his case due to spending most of the year in New York City. The subversion comes from the fact that Jeter is known to be very smart with his money and was able to pay the amount owed without going bankrupt.
- The ongoing scandal about how the Cincinnati office of the IRS handled applications from various Tea Party groups for 501(c)4 status brought to light a greater problem. As a reading of the relevant law makes clear, the real scandal here is that, in 1959, the IRS decided, without Congressional approval, that a law defining 501(c)4 groups as operating exclusively for the public welfare (and not for any political purposes) meant that groups operating primarily for the public welfare could gain the designation... at its discretion, of course. In other words, this loose definition gives the IRS the power to be lenient in granting 501(c)4 status to groups it favors, and quite strict in denying it to those it doesn't. Of course, as it turned out, the Cincinnati office "scandal" turned out not to be-in reality, the whole thing was a farce of incompetence and overwork, and both liberal and conservative groups were being denied (the perception that more conservative groups were being turned down was because more of them were applying)-but the problem remains.
- Believe it or not, the IRS has a detailed plan to keep collecting taxes even after a doomsday scenario like the aftermath of World War III. No wonder The Joker is scared of these guys when they're willing to go this far to enforce The Three Certainties in Life; death, taxes, and death if you don't pay your taxes.
- The Japanese Visual Kei scene has had multiple issues (due to artists, label owners, and others engaging in "creative accounting" that would make some American "tax protesters" quite jealous). Dynamite Tommy, producer Tetsuya Komuro, Kisaki, and GACKT, among others, have all had issues with the Japanese equivalent of the IRS. (Komuro and Kisaki were both found guilty, with Komuro even serving a short prison sentence, while Dynamite Tommy was found not guilty and released post arrest, and Gackt's case is still under investigation...)
- Doberman pinschers were bred by a Prussian tax collector, Karl Doberman, to protect himself from muggers (since his job required him to go into sketchy areas of town carrying money).
- As a matter of fact, the (former, as of 2012) German collection agency for state TV, the GEZ (Gebühreneinzugszentrale) appealed to this trope, to the point of broadcasting a series of very provocative TV spots ending with: "GEZ - Schon GEZahlt?" (GEZ - Paid up already?).
- An interesting fact about British tax law has come to light in the wake of increasing public disapproval of the proliferation of unpaid internships. There are quite specific rules on what an intern can and cannot be made to do before they cease to be an intern and turn into an employee, but unfortunately enforcement is somewhat spotty and the UK treats theft of services as a civil matter rather than a felony. However, it has been pointed out that if a company is not paying someone wages when they should be, it's an odds-on bet that they are also not paying their Employer's National Insurance contribution for that person. And the Inland Revenue will always welcome anonymous tip-offs...
- Italy brought this trope to the logical extreme. How? Financial crimes and tax evasion are in the jurisdiction of the Guardia di Finanza, a military police force that has actually fought with valour in both World Wars and, being both law enforcement, custom guards and military, is equipped as light infantry (up to general purpose machine guns and 40mm grenade launchers) and has combat helicopters (normally used as patrol) and small warships (to scare off smugglers as they patrol Italy's enormous coastline. They're up to 340 tonnes, and they all come with heavy machine guns and/or autocannons). May God help you if you run afoul of them.
- Financial guards are or were part of several nations' law enforcement system per the other wiki , although the Italian one may be exceptionally well armed. United States had a such service, too, in the form of US Revenue Cutter Service, which operated warships that fought in wars as recent as the Spanish-American War. The captain of one of its ships even won a Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions off the coast of Cuba. However, in 1915, USRC was merged with other services to form the Coast Guard as its tax collection duties were considered no longer important.
- Finance guards, especially those operating warships, were important in an era when nations' tax revenues came mostly from tariffs and excise taxes and tax cheats came in form of smugglers and moonshiners and other clandestine manufacturing operations. In an era of income tax, such agencies are less necessary. The demise of the US Revenue Cutter Service (as an armed tax collection agency) coincided with the shift of the main resource of revenue to the income tax (i.e. the "Internal Revenue") rather than tariffs and excise taxes on whiskey.note
- Financial guards are or were part of several nations' law enforcement system per the other wiki , although the Italian one may be exceptionally well armed. United States had a such service, too, in the form of US Revenue Cutter Service, which operated warships that fought in wars as recent as the Spanish-American War. The captain of one of its ships even won a Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions off the coast of Cuba. However, in 1915, USRC was merged with other services to form the Coast Guard as its tax collection duties were considered no longer important.
- This trope is sometimes exploited by scammers, who contact their marks via phone and email, telling them that they owe on their taxes and need to pay up now, or face dire consequences. They're banking that the victims will be afraid of being arrested or whatever and give them access to all kinds of sensitive information or might be immigrants from countries where people routinely pay bribes to government officials. The IRS never contacts people via phone or email; if they need to get in touch with you, they will either (snail) mail you something, or if it's really serious, someone will show up at your door.
- If you make enough money this could be a discredited trope, given how easy it is for the super-rich to sidestep tax or to "minimise their tax burden" by registering as citizens or companies in tax havens - usually microstates that would be Third World backwaters if not for their banking and financial centres. British governments have also been notorious for brokering "sweetheart deals" with big companies that make a significant amount of money in Britain - here the Inland Revenue actually helps companies like Boots, Amazon, Mail Group Newspapers, et c, pay little or no tax in Britain. It seemingly falls over backwards to do so, in fact. The upshot of this is that for every big earner not paying their fair share, everybody else's tax burden goes up, even by a tiny fraction. As of 2021 there is an international push to set up a global minimum corporate tax rate to reduce the viability of tax haven nations, currently being hindered by the objections of some existing tax haven nations.
- Taken Up to Eleven in The Roman Empire, where the authorities expected the tax collectors to supplement their official wages by cheating people and extorting more money from them than the law required. In conquered provinces, they were often natives to the area who were working with their conquerors, which meant they were also viewed as traitors. See the entry for the Bible under literature to see how popular this made them.