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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tune In to the Adventures of the Tax Police

First there were 30-second television advertisements. Soon there will be children's cartoons. And by next year, viewers will be exposed to the ultimate weapon in the government's battle to convince Russians to pay taxes -- a 16-part soap opera devoted to the lives and loves of Russia's tax police.

In an unlikely mix of "Hill Street Blues" and a public service announcement, state-owned RTR television is now making a new series to be called "Maroseika 12" after the address of the tax police's criminal investigation headquarters.

The joint project between the Russian tax police and the VideoArt production company will start airing in December with funding from RTR and other undisclosed sponsors.

"We want to rear a nation of taxpayers, to make tax a part of our culture," said Yury Medvedev, chief spokesman for the tax police. "This is the first time the public will get an insight into the way the tax police works."

The tax police launched a series of off-beat 30-second advertisements last September warning people to file their taxes or face nasty consequences such as sleepless nights and impotence. Starting in April, three cartoon advertisements of taxpaying superheroes will be aired toinculcate Russia's little taxpayers of tomorrow.

But soap opera producer Yury Sapronov of VideoArt rejects suggestions that tax collection does not make for enthralling drama. On the contrary, he said, "Maroseika 12" will feature murder, financial scams and lots of sex.

"There is a wealth of material to draw on," Sapronov said Wednesday.

The tax police has granted "Maroseika 12" producers access to all its files, with the exception of cases still under investigation. A commission comprised of representatives from each department in the tax police, was established to liaise with VideoArt to fully acquaint producers with the nature of their jobs.

The tax police has even agreed to include in "Maroseika 12" a story line about corrupt tax cops.

Medvedev hastened to point out that only 19 of the 38,000 tax police were charged with corruption in 1997. Some 40 citizens were charged with offering bribes, however, not to mention the hundreds of threats and blackmail attempts each year.

Maroseika 12's storyline will inevitably include a touch of pathos, to reflect the dangerous nature of a tax cop's job . Last year, six officers were killed in the line of duty and 1998 has already seen another murder.But there will also be triumph. The Tax Inspectorate's action heros last year flushed out some 21,000 tax dodgers, launched 6,000 criminal investigations and added trillions of rubles to the Federal budget.

Armed with two pilot programs, producers from the VideoArt production company fronted up at Tax Police headquarters last summer. To their surprise, the videos went down brilliantly.

Medvedev of the Tax Police said the pilots were interesting, "if a little on the ... fantastical side."

Sapronov is promising a star-studded cast. "We are seeking a very famous, professional staff," he said.

The Tax Police, however, would prefer to be portrayed by less well known actors. "If the actors are too famous, people will feel fooled from the beginning," Medvedev said. "The show will be no more than a publicity stunt."

If the pilot series of 16 episodes strikes a chord with viewers, a further 36 will be shot. The Tax Police will contribute their professional expertise but no funding.

Sapronov is currently negotiating for a prime-time weekend slot, and expects to hit the airwaves round December. Filming will start this summer.

Low tax collection has been a major problem for the Russian budget. Last year, tax collection fell about one third below the budget target.

With this in mind, the State Tax Service and the Tax Police have been doing their utmost to remind Russians of their civic duty to pay tax.

Viktor Sokolsky, a spokesman for the Tax Service, said Wednesday the campaign is working and the number of people paying taxes is significantly up on last year. "Already we have received declarations from 52,000 people," he said. "This is twice as many people as [had filed by the same time] last year."