July 04, 2007

Revenue Man Blues

It's the Fourth of July, so naturally my thoughts turn to the Internal Revenue Service, and this observation: There are films, books and television shows celebrating secret service agents, the FBI, the CIA, ATF agents, the OSS, the Judge Advocate General's Corp, but none, that I can think of, in which IRS agents figure as the heroes. (In the Untouchables film, Al Capone is busted for tax evasion, but Agent Oscar Wallace is never identified as a member of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (which is what the IRS was called back when it busted Capone).

This strikes me as an unfortunate lapse in our culture. The IRS and its agents are often portrayed negatively (in both drama and comedy -- the audit seemed to be a fairly stock episode premise in the 1970s, I seem to recall), but rarely does the public get a glimpse of the difficulty of pursuing sophisticated tax cheats, including billionaires, multinational corporations and offshore scammers. I wonder if this might be, in part, because Hollywood itself indulges in so many tax shelters that the notion that an IRS agent could be anything other than someone to be gotten around doesn't occur to them.

Incidentally, the title of this post comes from a classic Charly Patton song, available for free here (though I've never used Rhapsody so caution is recommended); the lyrics are here. Note this bit from the lyric site:

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Due to certain social, economic, and political paradigms in place at the time of their composition, many early blues songs were improperly copyrighted or not copyrighted at all. Many bore no composer credits. Many were ripped off by unethical music publishers who falsely claimed authorship and copyrighted them in their own names. Many that were once copyright-protected are now in the public domain due to publishers' or composers' failures to properly renew the copyrights. Many have since been ripped off by unethical performers or music publishers who have pretended to be the composers for the purpose of securing a belated copyright or who have claimed "arranger's" credits on songs they falsely swore were "traditional" when in fact the songs were composed by the people who originally performed them on record.

How sad. The revenue man has more in common with the blues man than he does with the record producer...

Posted by Ideofact at July 4, 2007 11:51 PM