3 Things Movies and TV Get Wrong About Taxes and IRS Enforcement

It turns out that more realistic portrayals of audits and interactions with IRS personnel would make for pretty dull content.

Here are the top three concepts typically seen in our entertainment that are utterly off-base from how the IRS works in real life, even if they make for convenient plot points.

One of the most notable portrayals of this is in the 1996 cult sports comedy Happy Gilmore. The titular Gilmore, played by Adam Sandler, frantically tries to save his grandmother's house after she gets a notice from the IRS.

The IRS Can't Just Take Your House to Pay Off Back Taxes

It states that she has 90 days to pay a massive amount of back taxes she cannot afford, or she will lose her house. Happy Gilmore came out two years before then-President Bill Clinton signed a staggering reform into law called The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998.

A threatening phone call from IRS agents who want to collect past due taxes or fine you for a poorly-prepared tax return is simply Hollywood dramatization.

You Won't Receive a Threatening Phone Call from the IRS

In real life, the callers are scam artists weaponizing public disdain for America’s overly complex tax system to con their marks.

Several movies and TV shows in the past few decades have depicted crack teams of IRS agents turning up on the doorstep at dinnertime to serve the hapless protagonist with audit papers or even arrest them.

IRS Agents Can't Show Up Unannounced

An interesting example that could be an entire essay by itself is an episode from the ninth season of The Simpsons, “The Trouble with Trillions.” Panicked about filing his taxes so late, Homer Simpson hastily assembles what the IRS dubs a “frivolous tax return.”

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