2010Q1 Reports: Treasurer

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ACL Treasurer's report, February 2010
Graeme Hirst


My project to complete the work of the distant past and keep up with the work of the present is continuing (albeit at a reduced pace this term due to administrative responsibilities in my real job). As always, I am assisted by the chapter treasurers and by Priscilla who does much of the work of maintaining and consolidating the data. Our Toronto bookkeeper, Chiaki Nemoto, has worked hard to help put things in order.

In November 2009, I sent the then-Exec a report on our books for 2008, including the balance sheet for 2008 and the "profit-and-loss" (i.e., surplus and deficit) sheet. This is repeated at the end of this report for the benefit of the new members of the 2010 Exec.

The 2008 data also went to our U.S. accountant, Mr Philip Pope, who has now submitted our belated 2008, 2007, and 2006 returns to the IRS. At present, Chiaki has started working on our 2009 books, and she promises to have them ready in time for Mr Pope, in turn, to have our 2009 return in on time.

My main goal right now is to complete the work for past and present conferences, and in particular the surplus or deficit attributable to each SIG.

In 2008, our sole ACL-level conference was ACL HLT 2008 (Columbus), which had a surplus of $61,800. The standalone event EMNLP 2008 (Waikiki) had a surplus of $31,350 for SIGDAT.

For 2009 conferences, I have only preliminary data so far. The organizers of EACL 2009 (Athens) sent a very rough and coarse-grained accounting showing the conference essentially breaking even: a surplus of just €3342 on income of €210,103. I have not yet verified the details. I have no data yet for NAACL-HLT 2009 (Boulder). For ACL 2009, I have expense data but have not yet dealt with the income data; however, I expect that the conference will show a surplus because of higher-than-expected attendance.


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PREVIOUS REPORT TO EXEC

5 November 2009

Dear ACL Exec and other Treasurers,

Our new bookkeeper, Ms Chiaki Nemoto, has completed the books for 2008, and I have sent a large package of spreadsheets off to Priscilla to give to Philip Pope, our accountant in Stroudsburg, who will use them to prepare our 2008 U.S. IRS filing (due 15 November).

I have attached the four main spreadsheets here, and will summarize a couple of the others. (The complete set of 12 is available on request.) Two of them show "profit and loss" for 2008 (or surplus and deficit, as we prefer to say in the non-profit biz) -- one broken down by area of spending, and one summarizing all areas. The next one is a balance sheet showing our assets and liabilities, and the final one shows our European accounts. All amounts are USD, except where indicated in the European accounts.

The key change in all this is a move to accrual-based bookkeeping from our previous cash-based method, which simply counts money-in / money-out without regard to what it's for. Mr Biggs, on my instructions, followed the latter, but Chiaki, who has more experience with organizations like ours (*) convinced me that we should move to the accrual method, which takes into account payments made for things in future years, funds received for things in past years, and liabilities incurred in one year that will be paid for in the next. In CL terms, it's smoothing.

For example, in 2008, we incurred a liability of about $45,000 to MIT Press for publishing the journal, but we are not billed for that until 2009. So we show a liability of $45,000 carried over. On the other hand, Macquarie University billed us $10,600 in advance in 2008 for the services of Robert's editorial assistant in 2009, so we carry that forward as a prepaid expense. This is especially important in the case of conferences, for which we start spending long in advance and are still paying the bills long afterwards. In 2008, we made advance payments totaling $115,000, including $88,000 in advances to the organizers of our three 2009 conferences.

Because of the move from cash to accrual, this year's books are still a bit misleading because of the way they deal, or don't deal, with items from previous cash-based years. For example, the Columbus conference is shown as having a surplus of $68,000, but this doesn't take into account spending on the conference in 2006-07, which I expect will be around $10,000 when I finalize that conference. On the other hand, the data are complete for EMNLP 2008, it having been wholly organized in 2008, and I will forward the info to SIGDAT.

So in the cash-based method, Mr Biggs's preliminary statements (**) showed us "losing" $100,000 in 2008, and that's true in the sense that our spending exceeded our income by that amount -- not surprising in a year in which we have the income of one conference and the expenses of planning for three. Chiaki's smoothed method shows a deficit of only $26,640, and moreover she notes: "The Profit and Loss shows a deficit amount. This is mainly due to more than $65,000 was paid in 2008 for before 2008. If accruals had been done properly in the past, the Profit and Loss should have shown about $38,000 surplus for 2008."

Moving forward, Chiaki will shortly get started on 2009. As a side-effect of doing 2008, we have developed an ontology of transactions ("chart of accounts" in her lingo) that can now be applied to transactions as they occur, which will speed up future work. And moving backward, Priscilla and I will work to finish up outstanding matters for 2005 to 2007.

Respectfully submitted, Graeme Hirst, Treasurer

Balance sheet 2008-12-31 (pdf)
Profit and loss sheet 2008-12-31 (pdf)
Profit and loss sheet with class breakdown 2008-12-31 (pdf)
European accounts 2008-12-31 (pdf)


(*) As I mentioned before, Chiaki and the practice in which she works specialize in bookkeeping for arts organizations. The main business of many of these, like us, is to put on events that are planned long in advance and that people pay to attend. To a bookkeeper, we are really just a glorified theatre company. Chiaki herself has a degree in Arts Administration.

(**) Mr Biggs, incidentally, has not been heard from since I sent him our formal termination letter (in fact, not since mid-July). He has not returned any of our records or files, nor billed us for his as-yet-unpaid time. The records he has, mostly bank statements, are all photocopies, so nothing is actually lost, and Chiaki has recreated all his files using the Excel derivations that he had sent me earlier. The security of this information, however, remains a worry; I wouldn't want it to be just dumped in a recycling bin by someone cleaning out his office.