I’d been working in the tax industry for over 15 years when I first learned of IRS special agents. These criminal investigators are essentially “tax cops,” making sure tax cheats pay their fair share so that you and I don’t have to shoulder an unfair financial burden.
When I first began writing my Death and Taxes series, which stars a criminal investigator for the IRS, I performed research to learn what IRS special agents do and how they do it. I read over facts and statistics about tax fraud. I subscribed to email alerts from the Treasury’s office of financial enforcement. I also interviewed a group of special agents. I was very impressed! They were incredibly smart, driven, attractive, and physically fit. They work hard and take personal risks. I’m so grateful for what they do! The special agents offered me lots of interesting and important information. I took copious notes, even attended the trial of a tax preparer accused of fraud so that I could see justice in action. I learned a lot about what it’s like to be a special agent.
Then I sat down to write my book. I took the truth and played with it, rolling it around like it was Play-Doh, mixing the colors and forming it into different shapes. It’s a fiction writer’s job to create an interesting story and that often means bending the truth for the sake of the story. Just as well-behaved women rarely make history, well-behaved heroines are not as entertaining as ones who break the rules.
Tara Holloway, the special agent who stars in my Death and Taxes series, is hardly a model agent. She pursues justice at all costs, even if it means doing things that, in reality, would get her fired or land her butt in jail. In writing my series, one of my hopes was that I could introduce people to the fascinating world of special agents and create some appreciation for the people who do this tough job. To that end, I’d like to sort out fact from fiction.
FICTION: Tara and her fellow agents operate by the seat of their pants, making snap decisions on the fly without approval from their superiors.
FACT: IRS special agents carefully plan their investigations and actions in advance, with input and approval from those up their chain of command.
FICTION: Tara accesses taxpayer data without authorization.
FACT: IRS special agents are not permitted to look up taxpayer data willy nilly and can be terminated for improperly accessing information.
FICTION: Tara and the other agents combine their personal and work lives, sometimes driving personal vehicles on the job and running personal errands on work time.
FACT: IRS special agents drive only government vehicles while on the job and do not drive them on personal errands.
FICTION: Tara is a sharpshooter who hits everything she aims for and can shoot things out of a person’s hand at long range.
FACT: Fact may not be so far from fiction here. Special agents are required to re-certify on their weapons on a regular basis. So, yep, they not only know numbers, they know their guns, too.
Many of my readers have told me that they first learned of IRS special agents via my novels. Do you know of any other unsung heroes with unusual jobs? Tell us about them!
One person who posts a comment today will win a copy of DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE, book #1 in my Death and Taxes series. The winner will be posted around 9:00 pm Central Time. Look for book #2, DEATH, TAXES, AND A SKINNY NO-WHIP LATTE, in bookstores now. Read an excerpt at www.dianekelly.com.