The Time-Traveling Tax Man

I’m one of those incredibly annoying people who file their tax returns early, in order to get my refund early. I file electronically using a service called Netfile. You can check the status of your return online using the CRA’s “My Account” service. Eventually, you’ll see a message like this:

Your 2007 return was assessed and a refund of $500 was deposited directly into your bank account on May 3, 2008.

The problem is that this message appears long before the actual deposit date, because there’s a delay in the processing of your refund and when you actually receive your refund. Therefore, it’s wrong to say “was deposited” when it hasn’t even been deposited yet.

Imagine you are the technical writer and have been assigned the task of fixing the wording so that it is logically correct. What are the options?

One solution is to do nothing and justify the error by saying that the wording will only be wrong for a few days or weeks, and then it will be correct. It’s a bit like saying that a stopped clock is correct twice a day. In otherwords, it’s a cop out.

Another solution would be to say “a refund of $500 was/will be deposited” but this is even more confusing than the original wording.

One more solution would be to implement a script that would automatically change the wording from “will be deposited” to “was deposited” on the magic day. The problem is that this would be complex and costly to implement, and like all programs, would be subject to error.

The cause of this problem is the verb was, in the phrase “was deposited”. We need to get rid of this, but how?

Here is what I would suggest:

Your 2007 return was assessed:
Refund amount: $500
Deposit date: May 3, 2008.

Refunds are deposited directly into your bank account.
That’s it! Proof that fewer words are often better, and that the simplest solutions are often the best. Now go file your taxes already!


One thought on “The Time-Traveling Tax Man

  1. Craig

    Unfortunately, I say it’s still only close. The deposit date is still not correct. If the funds aren’t in your account immediately, then the deposit date is not the same as the date the refund was processed. I would prefer to say May 3 is the processing date and the funds will be deposited within X days.

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