Remembering Bill Parks

This tribute was originally published in Tax Notes on March 20, 2023.


Bill Parks of Moscow, Idaho, was an American patriot in the best way possible. William Parks (known as Bill to everyone) died the evening of March 5 near Boise. Bill will be remembered for his passion for the natural world, the many people he impacted, and his legacy of work to improve the business and tax world.

Family, friends, and business associates knew Bill through his creation and dedication to his world-famous business, NRS Inc. Bill managed to combine his love of whitewater rafting and a people-first business vision into a winning formula. After NRS became a multimillion-dollar business, Bill fully sold the company to his employees in 2014. Bill didn’t simply work to increase his personal wealth, though, but also to improve the world. You can learn more about his personal life or the perspective of his employee stock ownership plan family online.

Bill was also a professor of finance at the University of Oregon and the University of Idaho, and the way he built NRS reflected his deep understanding of the economic theory he was teaching to his students. Applying practical business knowledge and guided by his academic understanding, he showed that investment in people makes good economic sense and yields long-term growth. But Bill never forgot how much luck was involved in his success, and he wanted to improve opportunities for other small and medium-size business owners as well.

As potential retirement came into view, Bill decided to spend his later years working on ways to improve America’s tax system to better support smaller businesses. The U.S. tax system, he argued, should help smaller and medium-size domestic enterprises instead of giving tax breaks to multinational companies that didn’t need them. He decided to take on a new career: public policy advocate.

Bill self-financed an effort to tackle the systemic problems of international corporate tax avoidance and market consolidation. These problems were a personal affront to his business sensibilities and a huge undertaking. He recruited and joined allies in these fights. I am proud to have been one of them, and Bill partnered with several organizations, including the Coalition for a Prosperous America. As a board member at the coalition, Bill served a vital role in keeping tax policy a key area of the organization’s advocacy.

As a business innovator, Bill understood how tax avoidance strategies have become detrimentally prevalent, and he fought to simplify and change them. Starting in 2011, Bill began to prolifically write opinion pieces for Tax NotesUSA TodayThe Hill, MarketWatch, and regional papers. His primary focus was the abuse of the transfer pricing system. He showed that it actively enables continued business advantages for multinational enterprises and argued that the United States should instead use sales factor apportionment in its tax code.

Bill pointed out that outdated negotiations from the 1920s regarding the assignment of profit valuation for tax purposes established a loophole that grew into a massive problem over the last century. In frustration with the insistence that the system just needed to be mildly reformed, Bill famously accused transfer pricing aficionados of being “cultists” (Tax Notes Federal, Oct. 26, 2020, p. 605). If this offended some transfer pricing practitioners, Bill didn’t care. He resented the transfer pricing apparatus that continues to strangle small businesses.

Ultimately, that frustration created an opportunity. While Bill had persuaded some other policy experts that he was on the right track with sales factor apportionment, partisanship made reform a significant challenge. Bill agreed that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act should be framed as a steppingstone to these improvements, and he thought that the next best improvement would be the corporate alternative minimum tax. He chose to set aside his ego and support the corporate AMT. His support was critical in some legislative offices to help in the overall effort to pass the Inflation Reduction Act (P.L. 117-169). Bill then returned to advocating for reform with sales factor apportionment.

Bill was never one to rest on his laurels. He still wanted to deal with market consolidation. Bill was constantly barraged by offers to buy his company even after it became 100 percent employee-owned. But his market experience taught him that doing so would mean his beloved company being stripped for parts. New buyers would break down the company’s intellectual property and other valuable components so the value would lie in less competition. Market-consolidating forces don’t want to compete; they want a monopolistic share of a smaller piece of the whole because that’s more profitable. Bill knew that ESOPs offered an alternative route to this market consolidation and would better ensure the survival of NRS.

But while popular, ESOPs are considered expensive to the government because the tax revenue reductions are all on the front end as the employees earn untaxed profits. The government gets back the money in taxable retirement disbursements 20 or 30 years later. Therefore, assessors like the Joint Committee on Taxation can only measure an ESOP’s effects within a decade. They assume it will be a more significant loss than it will be. Bill wanted to consider changing the measuring yardstick to correctly account for this revenue.

But ESOPs also had an attractiveness problem. Bill learned firsthand that selling to employees was not only less profitable but a money-losing venture. ESOPs were designed based on previous rules for like-kind exchanges in real estate. Those exchanges are not the same when a property is paid back a portion at a time in ESOP form. Valuation for a loan is a different proposition than a paper value.

Ultimately, Bill took a loan structure that would lose value as time progressed because it was the only way to ensure he could sell to his employees. He never resented his employees for that, but thereafter he argued that the ESOP benefits should be structured to be more attractive to owners who might want to sell. Few others would follow his path as long as selling to an ESOP was so harmful to the owner.

Bill could have done many things over the last 12 years, but he gave his life to the country and the world. His advocacy would never bring him another dollar, but that wasn’t why he did it. Bill wanted to make the country and the world a better place. To the chagrin of his opponents, he left behind advocates and a tax policy program to continue his work.

Some people give their last full measure of devotion to the country in a matter of a few minutes, and some take decades. But no matter the length, we recognize the similar commitment and dedication involved. My friend, mentor, and surrogate grandfather was only one of a few who I can say without hesitation embraced the idea that “we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” Bill didn’t have to claim to be an American patriot. He just was one. I will miss him.

Bill Parks is survived by his wife, Donna Holmes Parks; his close friend and business partner, Bryan Dingel; his brother, David Parks; and David’s wife, Barbara.



CPA is the leading national, bipartisan organization exclusively representing domestic producers and workers across many industries and sectors of the U.S. economy.

The latest CPA news and updates, delivered every Friday.


Get the latest in CPA news, industry analysis, opinion, and updates from Team CPA.