Density functional theory calculations of alkyl-carboxylate anions and their sulfur substituted variants are presented here as an aid for the development of new ionic liquids. Electron transfer both within the anion, and between the anion and cation of an ion pair, are described using natural bond order analysis, using tetraethylammonium as a common cation. The overall stabilising effect of this electron transfer is quantified for the series of anions, and is found to correlate with clear trends in ion-pair binding energy. These and other electronic properties determine which compounds are synthesised, and experimental results validate the computational results. In combination with tetraethylammonium, a carboxylate with an unsaturated alkyl chain produces an ionic liquid at room temperature. However, computations suggest that sulfur substituted anions will produce a lower melting point and perhaps more fluid ionic liquid, but one which would be less stable against oxidation.