The role of a treasurer is rewarding and challenging. There are many responsibilities associated with it, but not always an adequate supply of resources or people to assist with what is required.

This guide has been specifically designed to assist treasurers in attending to their responsibilities. It can be used by new treasurers so that the transition to their role happens in the most efficient and effective manner. It can also be used by current treasurers who simply need assistance with their responsibilities.

The guide discusses various issues associated with the role of a treasurer. However, the first step is to gain an understanding of some financial aspects associated with your organisation as follows:

Gain an understanding of the organisation’s structure

Before any accounting work is performed, the treasurer should gain knowledge of the organisation’s structure. This includes understanding all relevant activities of the organisation, the people responsible for these activities, the entity type(s) through which the organisation and its related activities operate, and the financial reporting requirements of the organisation and its related activities.

Understand your role within the organisation’s structure

Once you have an awareness of the organisation’s structure, you need to understand your role within that structure. You should consider:

  • What are your areas of responsibility?
  • What accounting information do you need to maintain and what is maintained by others?
  • To whom are you reporting and what do you need to report?

You should clearly define the areas for which you are responsible and the areas for which the secretary and other members of leadership are responsible. If there is a bookkeeper, you should consider how the responsibilities of your role shall be allocated between this person and yourself.

Understand the organisation’s taxation registration

An understanding of the organisation’s current taxation registrations can be obtained by searching two websites, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) Register and the Australian Business Register (ABR).

For your organisation to be exempt from paying income tax, it must be a registered charity with the ACNC. The ACNC register shows details of an organisation’s:

  • Contact information
  • Registration Details
  • Annual Reporting – if required
  • Documents uploaded by the organisation such as governing rules
  • Details of who the organisation benefits and where
  • Names of people within the organisation that are defined

The ABR shows details of an organisation’s:

  • Entity type
  • Australian business number (ABN)
  • Goods & Services Tax (GST) status
  • Available tax concessions for GST, fringe benefits tax (FBT) and income tax
  • Whether the organisation is a deductible gift recipient (DGR) or has any DGR funds

Reviewing the information from the ACNC and the ABR will give you an indication of the organisation’s reporting and statutory requirements, such as whether you need to comply with the requirements of an incorporated association or company limited by guarantee. It will also indicate whether business activity statements (BAS) will need to be prepared (if the organisation is registered for GST) and whether there is a need to comply with the DGR requirements.

Understand the organisation’s specific reporting requirements

By performing an ABR search and an ACNC Register search, you will have obtained a broad knowledge of the statutory reporting requirements. However you should also consider what additional information will be needed to report to the organisation’s leadership team and members. This may include the preparation of budgets and monthly financial reports and preparation of reports for different individual activities of the organisation.

Understand the accounting system used

If there is no established accounting system, you should consider what would be appropriate for the organisation’s specific requirements. If there is an established accounting system, you will need to gain an understanding of that system and then continue to review its appropriateness. Many organisations use MYOB or Quickbooks to record their accounting transactions.

Understand internal controls

You should gain an understanding of the internal controls around the transactions connected with your organisation’s activities. Where appropriate, documentation for these controls should exist. You can then consider if there are any weaknesses in the internal controls that should be addressed. This guide contains detailed information on what controls may be appropriate to your organisation.

Obtain copies of permanent documents

You should obtain copies of important documents that will have a direct impact on the organisation’s operations over an extended period of time. These documents should include but are not limited to:

  • The organisation’s constitution or similar document
  • Policies and procedures manuals
  • Guidelines of any governing body the organisation is part of
  • Trust deeds
  • Employment contracts
  • Insurance contracts
  • Lease agreements
  • Loan agreements
  • Other relevant contracts (e.g. building contracts)