Joseph Nunan

Over sixty years later, he’s just an ironic blip in American history, but in 1952, it was big news that former IRS Commissioner Joseph Nunan was convicted of tax evasion. That’s right—the country’s primary tax law enforcer was a tax cheat.

Over several years in the 1940s, he hid over $90,000 of income, $1,800 of which he won from a bet that Harry Truman would win the 1948 presidential election. He destroyed evidence and dodged investigators, but ultimately, the government prevailed in its case against Nunan. As a result, he spent five years in jail and paid $15,000 in fines.

But a deeper dive past the irony reveals something even more sinister. Apparently, much of the hidden income came from fees paid by tax litigants for phone calls on their behalf to the IRS. As former commissioner, Nunan still had pull within the Service to make tax problems go away. So he was convicted of tax evasion, but he was guilty of far more than that.

Josh Norris