Fast Company

Tax Cheats Beware: The Government Will Find You

Map back tax target

Those who owe back taxes better pay up, or Pennsylvania's department of revenue will hunt you down, Jack Bauer-style.

That's the scare tactic used in a recent series of Big Brother-like ads, which showed a satellite zeroing in on a tax cheat's home. "Your name is Tom," bleeps a robotic-voice, as the Google Earth-esque graphics zoom toward its target. "You live just off 5th Street. Nice car, Tom. Nice house. What's not so nice is you owe Pennsylvania $4,212 in back taxes."

"Find us before we find you," threatens the ad.

The commercials were intended to remind the cash-strapped state's tax cheats of its new amnesty program, which granted a 54-day reprieve to delinquents by waiving penalties and reducing interest payments. However, the high-tech commercials frightened the crap out of pretty much everyone, and garnered Pennsylvania a huge bundle of money--$261 million, more than 37% higher than expected.

Some have criticized the ads for their 1984-style intimidation, but it's not uncommon for the government to employ public shaming for the greater good. For example, most states already release lists of top tax delinquents along with the amounts they owe--these commercials just use technology to heighten that potential embarrassment, and to scare the unwitting and elderly into believing such government control exists.

Are these scare tactics effective? Clearly. And with many other state's nearing bankruptcy, perhaps it's time for the rest of the country to play along.

P.S. We couldn't help being reminded of this:

Add New Comment

0 Comments