Tax law is not known for its literary prose, but a U.S. Tax Court judge, in a case involving some challenged business deductions by a theater professor aiming to be a playwright, explained that tax law actually has a long literary history (interesting footnotes omitted):
It is a truth little remarked on by scholars that tax law has been a fount of literature for 5,000 years. The oldest literary work still extant–the Epic of Gilgamesh–is a long narrative of a friendship begun during a protest against government exactions. In more recent times, some of our language’s most notable authors have used fiction to delve into tax policy: consider Shakespeare’s criticism of the supply-side effects of a 16-percent tax rate; Swift’s precocious suggestion of a system of voluntary assessment; and Dickens’ trenchant observation on the problems of multijurisdictional taxing coordination ….
The prof didn’t fare too well before the court. In an opinion divided into a Prologue, Act I, Act II and Epilogue, the court agreed that the petitioner “approached his playwriting in a business-like manner,” but disallowed many of his business deductions, including, for example, approximately 100 expenditures for “Performances, Viewing.”
Petitioner testified at trial “that every time he listens to a CD or watches a movie, he is engaged in playwriting and not recreation.” The court found this to be a “less than candid” assessment of his business expenses.
— Calarco v. Comm’r of Internal Revenue, T.C. Summ. Op. 2004-94, Docket No. 1530-03S, (T.C. July 20, 2004). Thanks to Paul Scott and Cynthia Cohen.