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Frequently Asked Questions about ABO Finances and Operations

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

One of the American Board of Ophthalmology's seven guiding principles is to steward its finances with integrity and transparency. Below is detailed information about how Board revenue and expenses are calculated and managed. Additional questions may be directed to the Board Office.

What is the ABO’s annual budget? What are its sources of revenue and how is the money spent?

The ABO’s main source of income is fees for its examinations (written, oral, and Continuing Certification), totaling approximately $5.1 million. The ABO also earned approximately $1 million in income from investment returns ($900,000), exam development services ($77,000), and verification services and certificate sales ($13,000).

On the expense side, approximately $1.8 million is required to conduct the initial written ($460,000) and oral ($1.4 million) certifying examinations. Expenses to administer Continuing Certification components (Quarterly Questions and Improvement in Medical Practice Activities) tally approximately $1 million. Expenses to operate the ABO, including staff compensation, general program administration, and legal and accounting services are approximately $1.1M.

Are fees increased annually for the examinations?

No. Fees for the Written Qualifying Examination and Oral Examination in 2021 are $1,950 per exam and have remained the same for since 2019. The $200 annual fee for Continuing Certification has not increased since 2012.

Does the ABO maintain a balanced budget every year?

The ABO plans for and typically achieves a balanced budget. Should a deficit occur through unanticipated or special expenses or decreased revenue, the shortfall is covered through a reserve fund.

Why does the ABO have investments and reserves?

Like most not-for-profit organizations, the ABO seeks to maintain sufficient reserves to allow the organization to function for at least one year (and ideally two years) in the event of extraordinary financial circumstances.

Does the ABO have real estate holdings or other tangible assets?

No. The ABO transitioned to a virtual office in 2018. All employees work remotely.

How many persons does the ABO employ and what do they do?

The ABO staff comprises 14 employees: the Chief Executive Officer, Administrator, Director of Assessment and Psychometrics, Exam Development Manager, Exam Development Coordinator, Oral Examination Staffing Coordinator, Continuing Certification Program Manager, Improvement in Medical Practice Coordinator, Volunteer Program Manager, Director of Communications and Experience, Certification Experience Specialist, Physician Services Coordinator, Director of Information Technology, and Information Technology Manager. Specific role descriptions are available from the ABO office upon request.

Is the ABO’s staffing similar to other certifying boards?

The organizational structures of certifying boards vary considerably. Some boards have a full-time physician CEO or Executive Director, while others distribute executive responsibilities among several part-time physicians or employ non-physicians. Some boards employ physicians on a part-time basis for examination development. In general, the ABO’s staff-to-diplomate ratio is similar to other boards.

As a member board, how much does the ABO pay to the American Board of Medical Specialties every year?

The ABO pays a yearly fee to the ABMS, which is currently $169,190. The fee is calculated on the number of diplomates.

How is the ABO’s Chief Executive Officer compensated?

Dr. Bartley is employed by the Mayo Clinic, where he sees patients and performs surgery one day per week (0.2 FTE). The ABO remunerates the Mayo Clinic for the balance of his professional time (0.8 FTE), all of which is devoted to ABO responsibilities. Compensation is reviewed annually by the ABO Finance Committee using independent benchmarks.

Are ABO directors compensated?

ABO directors, both physician and public members, receive a per diem ($1,000) for meetings attended (weekdays only). No per diems are provided for Oral Examination days. Transportation, lodging, and a limited allowance for meals are covered by the ABO. The ABO reimburses directors for economy-class travel. Spousal travel is not covered. All physician directors pay Continuing Certification fees. The time commitment for a director is approximately 10-15 workdays and at least three weekends per year, in addition to approximately four hours per week. The typical term for a director is eight years.

Are the examiners for the Orals compensated?

The ABO relies on the extraordinarily generous support of hundreds of dedicated volunteers to conduct its work. Prior to 2020 when the Oral Examination was conducted in-person, the ABO covered the cost of examiners’ hotel rooms (the room was also used for the examination) and provided on-site meals while the examiners paid their own travel expenses.

Does the ABO undergo periodic audits?

Yes. As a 501(c)(6) organization, the ABO is audited annually by S.R. Snodgrass of Cranberry Township, PA. Also, the ABO has also been awarded the Platinum Seal of Transparency by GuideStar, the world’s largest source of nonprofit information, in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. Detailed organizational and financial information is posted on the ABO’s GuideStar profile.

Where can I review the ABO’s IRS 990 form?

The most recently filed form is posted on the ABO website. Detailed organization and financial information about the ABO is also available on GuideStar.

Are payments made to the ABO tax deductible? Where can I find the ABO’s tax ID?

Fees paid to the ABO are not tax deductible as charitable contributions; however, they may be tax deductible under other provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. Please consult your tax preparer for guidance.


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