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Duties of the ACL Treasurer

Graeme Hirst

(ACL Treasurer 2008-2017)



The Treasurer is the Chief Financial Officer of the association, and is the only officer who is legally able to contractually bind the association. This document describes the duties and work of the Treasurer.

The ACL has grown enormously over the last few years, and now has a turnover of US$1.5 million a year or more, keeping a steady state of about US$1 million in assets (as required for our credit rating and to be able to pay large deposits far in advance of revenue). The Treasurer is responsible for all of ACL's financial assets and financial dealings. It is a position of considerable trust and responsibility.


The Treasurer needs to have a good (albeit lay) understanding of bookkeeping, accounting, and the U.S. banking system, and general facility with Excel. The Treasurer should have considerable familiarity with ACL, including its structure, its policies and operational practices, its publications, and the structure and style of its conferences. The Treasurer thus should be someone who has regularly attended *ACL conferences and who has been involved in some aspect or aspects of ACL organization and administration.

Ideally, the Treasurer should be in a time zone the same as, or close to, that of the ACL Office, bookkeeper, and auditor (UTC-5).

Time required and cost

The time required for the work adds up to at least two or three days per month and sometimes more; it is not a small job. Quick response is often necessary for small tasks, issues, and queries. Larger unfragmented blocks of time are needed for other tasks, sometimes with some moderate urgency. (For example, the turnaround time needed for IRS filings and other auditor matters is often just a day, and conference venue contracts usually have short, firm deadlines for signing.) Skype or phone meetings with the ACL Office are occasionally necessary or helpful, but most work is done by email.

The time required for attending mandatory Exec meetings at the ACL and NAACL conferences (see below) should also be considered if they wouldn't have been attended anyway; but one does get to attend the conference. Depending on the location and one's starting point, a site visit to a conference bidder (see below), possibly to multiple locations, may require several days for travel, recovery, and site inspections.

The cost of travel to the Exec meeting at conferences, as for all members of the Exec, is at the individual's expense (normally covered by their research grant). The cost of travel for site visits is covered by ACL and/or the bidders.

The term of the Treasurer is five years, and two terms are allowed. When a new Treasurer takes office, the previous Treasurer remains on the Exec for one year as Past Treasurer to ease the transition.

Accounting and bookkeeping

The primary source of information for ACL's bookkeepers is the ACL Office, which regularly sends them bank statements and details of all transactions. The Treasurer must also liaise with ACL's bookkeepers regularly, providing them with additional information and interpretation of the data (which may require detailed knowledge of particular ACL activities and events) and generally overseeing the process, especially in the year-end finalization.

After the books are completed, ACL's accountants and auditors receive the data, and conduct an audit. This primarily involves the ACL Office, but the Treasurer must also complete and sign some declarations relating to the financial conduct of the association over the previous year.

Financial reports

After the books are completed, using the files and statements provided by the bookkeeper, the Treasurer makes a complete written report of the prior year's results and the financial state of the organization to the Exec. This report is also made available to the membership on the ACL Wiki. At the Business meeting at the annual ACL conference, the Treasurer makes a short presentation to the membership, summarizing the report.

Internal Revenue Service and State of New Jersey

The ACL is a registered non-profit organization in the State of New Jersey, and hence pays no tax on its income. To maintain its non-profit and tax-free status, it must submit a return (Form 990) to the United State Internal Revenue Service each year, plus a copy with a short additional form to New Jersey. Form 990 is quite long (more than 40 pages), as its goal (from the point of view of the IRS) is to cover all the ways that an organization might actually be a covert profit-making entity or otherwise a source of enrichment for its principals. It's important that Form 990 be submitted on time and accurately; it would be a disaster if ACL lost its non-profit status.

Form 990 is completed by the accountants, with oversight and review by the Treasurer, who must sign to declare its accuracy upon submission to the IRS. (The entire Exec is also obliged by law to review the return for accuracy, but it's the Treasurer who signs and takes responsibility.) The submission is made electronically by the accountants. The submission of the New Jersey version, however, must be made on paper by the Treasurer, and requires obtaining the physical signature of another senior exec member.

The IRS form is due on 15 May, but an extension to 15 August is always allowed, and in practice we almost never have the books of the previous year ready in time for 15 May. Some years in the past, we have had to request an additional extension to 15 November, which is the final drop-dead date. (The New Jersey form is due a few weeks later.)

Office oversight

The Treasurer has day-to-day oversight of the ACL Office and Priscilla Rasmussen (although formally she reports to the Exec). In particular, the Treasurer reviews and pays Priscilla's monthly invoice (she is a contractor, not an employee) because, while Priscilla handles all other ACL transactions, under checks-and-balances principles, she cannot pay herself. The payment must be made very promptly on receipt of the invoice.

Conference planning and budgets

The Treasurer is a member of all ACL conference coordinating committees, and maintains the templates for local expenses that are used by conference bidders.

The Treasurer is deeply involved in assessing the bids by potential conference hosts, especially the local expenses proposed for each bid, and in the financial planning of the conference and its final budget. Most of the contracts that the Treasurer signs are with conference suppliers -- hotels, convention centers, PCOs, etc. These contracts tend to be complex and require careful assessment, based on full knowledge of what's needed, in negotiation and signing.

The Treasurer usually participates in site visits (with Priscilla and perhaps another member of the coordinating committee) to assess the viability of conference bids and the proposed facilities and their cost. This may require travel anywhere in the world, typically a trip of several days, and usually in June or July but possibly at other times.

The final conference budget, including fees, is developed by the ACL Office for final approval by the Treasurer.

Many questions concerning the organization of a conference involve money, so the Treasurer must pay attention to almost everything concerning the conference. (And must be aware of relevant ACL policies and practices.) After the conference, the Treasurer may audit final invoices, making sure all expected bills are in accordance with expectations and are paid (this may involve obtaining explanations from locals and PCOs).

SIG and chapter subaccounts

ACL SIGs and chapters have no formal legal standing; all funds held by ACL are the property of the top-level organization. Nonetheless, informal subaccounts are kept for funds that are deemed to therefore "belong" to chapters and SIGs. Typically, these arise from surpluses from SIG-sponsored events, from conferences, and from sponsorships, and the SIGs and chapters are allowed to spend them as they wish. The Treasurer keeps track of this, maintaining the balance of each SIG account and liaising with the chapter treasurers and the treasurer or other officers of the SIGs.

(1) SIG-sponsored conference workshop surpluses are computed by the Treasurer from the final results of the conference, according to an algorithm based on the proportional size of the workshop compared to the entire event (measured in person-days of registration) plus any unused sponsorship monies they collected. Workshops that are not sponsored by SIGs (including those that are merely "endorsed" by a SIG without active involvement) do not earn a distributable surplus.

(2) Conference surpluses, after distributions to SIGs, are shared with hosting chapters, if any, or with AFNLP if a joint conference with IJCNLP. Chapter treasurers are responsible for their physical subaccounts.

(3) If a SIG holds a stand-alone event organized through ACL, the SIG takes the complete surplus or loss.

(4) The ACL general account may receive funds on behalf of a SIG (e.g., sponsorships) or spend funds on behalf of a SIG (e.g., reimburse an invited speaker). The Treasurer needs to keep track of this so that it can be factored into the SIGs' subaccounts; often the information may be hiding within the general operating account or elsewhere, so pro-active searching is necessary.

(5) The Treasurer also coordinates with the Treasurers of the NAACL and EACL chapters (see below).

SIG event planning and budgets

Some standalone SIG events, notably INLG, are organized through ACL, so the Treasurer must approve the budget and oversee and approve the final reconciliation. (These events often tend to involve unconventional bookkeeping, which is time-consuming to resolve.)


The Treasurer has no day-to-day involvement with the publication of the CL journal or TACL. However, an issue on the horizon is moving TACL to a commercial publisher, which will involve serious financial and contractual considerations.

Membership of ACL and NAACL Execs

The ACL Treasurer is a member of the ACL Executive Committee and an ex officio member of the NAACL Chapter Board (but not the EACL Chapter Board). The Treasurer therefore must participate in all meetings of these boards, which includes mandatory in-person meetings on the tutorial days of ACL and NAACL meetings (i.e., travel to both conferences is required), and a teleconference for the ACL Exec typically in February or early March. The Treasurer must also participate in all online discussions and votes of both boards, especially (but not only) those involving financial aspects.

Oversight of ACL assets in Europe

Much of ACL's holdings is in euros in accounts and investments in Malta, where they are overseen by the EACL Treasurer, Mike Rosner. Mike also maintains the assets of the EACL subaccount, but most of the Maltese holdings are central ACL assets. The ACL Treasurer provides oversight here, and liaises between Malta and the bookkeepers, accountants, and auditors. Mechanisms for local oversight of these assets, or their progressive movement to another location as they mature, will become a complex and possibly time-consuming issue when Mike's term is complete.