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When police or detectives encounter a recalcitrant witness who owns or runs a business, and they get him to talk by threatening to sic a government agency on them. This threat usually opens the witness's mouth, especially if the business deals in mostly cash, or is obviously less than reputable. Government agencies often used in the threat include tax agencies like the IRS and regulatory bodies like liquor licensing boards.

Examples of Audit Threat include:


  • Blade Runner. Police officer Deckard is trying to get information from strip club owner Taffey Lewis.

 Deckard: Did you ever see this girl?

Taffey: Never seen her. Buzz off.

Deckard: Your licenses in order, pal?

Taffey: [unimpressed] Hey, Louie. The man is dry. Give him one on the house, okay? See ya.

  • In Beverly Hills Cop, Axel Foley is caught illegally searching for evidence; he pretends to be an inspector and threatens an employee who questions his authority with an IRS audit. The employee drops his objections.


  • In Lindsey Davis's Marcus Didius Falco book Time To Depart, Falco and Petro are talking to the receptionist of a brothel (they were going to question her boss) when she offers them 'something special', a freeborn whore. Petro asks if the receptionist can show him the official she's registered with, and her registration number, after which she realises that they weren't there to score.
  • In Discworld, Lord Vetinari mentions to a complaining guild that, incidentally, they were on the taxpayer register last he looked.
    • By the time of Snuff, the City Watch has gained the power to use this threat thanks to A.E. Pessimal.
  • In Bloodline, by Sidney Sheldon, many people would cooperate with any investigation lead by Detective Max Hornung because of the reputation he earned during his previous job as a tax auditor. And only once in the whole book he's ever seen actually threatening someone. He did earn his reputation.

Live Action TV

  • CSI New York has Flack do this a fair bit.
  • In NCIS, Tony or Gibbs also do this on occasions.
  • Happens all the time on Law and Order.
  • In the Eli Sternberg arc in Wiseguy, Federal Agent McPike is trying to get some information from a company that does business with the group that they are investigating. They refuse, until McPike says "If you don't let me in, I will call my friends at the IRS. They eat guys like you for breakfast". The company lets him in immediately.
  • In The Rockford Files, people in official positions often threaten to have Jim Rockford's private investigator's license reviewed to get him to cooperate.

Tabletop Games

Western Animation

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