DENVER: Although Denver businesswoman Carole Ward must have experienced immense satisfaction, she had to know she'd pay a price for telling off IRS agent Paula Dzierzanowski during a 1993 dispute over $324,000 in unpaid income taxes. "Honey, from what I can see of your accounting skills, the country would be better served if you were dishing up chicken-fried steak on some interstate in west Texas, with all the clunky jewelry and big hair," Ward said in the heat of negotiations. Retaliation from the feds was swift and sure: Within weeks, IRS agents posted notices that led locals to believe the family was involved in drug smuggling, released her tax information to local television shows, and dashed off a letter criticizing her as a "deadbeat freeloader" to the editor in chief of a Colorado Springs newspaper. Once they started, the IRS found it hard to stop, though. One week after Ward settled her overdue bill, two district IRS agents took to the radio airwaves to denounce Ward for not paying her taxes. Today, Ward got her revenge when a court ordered the IRS to pay her $325,000 in damages for the agency's "reprehensible abuse of authority." A pleased but contrite Ward said "I should never have spoken condescendingly. That was wrong, but what they did to me for mouthing off was criminal."