Matters Column

Dear, Bill: Thank you for your sage advice, knowledge

August 24, 2018
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For those of you who follow the Grand Rapids Business Journal Matters column, you know William (Bill) F. Roth III. Bill has been a contributing writer to the column for the majority of his career and has masterfully written many articles covering a wide range of technical tax and accounting matters in such a way that non-CPAs can understand and actually enjoy reading about. For those of us who have assisted Bill over the years in the column and those who will be filling the large shoes, we wanted this column to be a tribute to Bill who is retiring from BDO this year after 34 years of working at the firm.

For those of who have never met Bill in person, you likely are not aware that he has the heart of a teacher and, like most teachers, gets the greatest enjoyment from seeing others learn and develop their self-confidence and skillset; BDO has been just one lucky recipient of this desire! Also, Bill who at one time must have had stock in the paper mills given his overflowing stacks of technical tax and accounting guidance that was always so visible in his BDO office, has blazed into this digital age, transferring this once-white tundra into a digital library that, in matter of a few clicks, could offer some recent guidance or an article that was on point and helpful. Bill has had such a positive impact on the BDO Grand Rapids office and the West Michigan community during his lengthy career, and his tax knowledge and business acumen will be missed by all.

Being a lifelong learner in all things tax with an emphasis in international tax and having a knack for coming up with articles during his international business and personal trips, Bill put together an article in June 2010 that discussed how U.S. companies were coming out of the recession with some renewed confidence resulting in more expansion and business operations internationally. With this international growth, Bill made sure to clearly lay out the international tax implications and considerations when companies provided goods and services internationally throughout the world, including in Canada.

Bill reaffirmed that much care and deliberation was required when doing business internationally to properly avoid any unwanted negative tax implications, especially when a company was just starting to execute an international business strategy.

Bill’s process for writing articles was to read about what was going on in the world and stay on top of tax and accounting trends in the industry to ensure his articles were both relevant and timely. Bill never shied away from writing about topics that would hold the reader’s attention, even when in slightly controversial areas like his September 2012 article about the tax implications of the sale and distribution of marijuana for limited medical purposes. Bill laid out the facts and did a good job of covering the most recent tax court decisions at the time that covered topics like whether tax deductions of expenses could be taken related to these types of businesses.

Having quadruplets gave Bill and his wife a huge incentive to ensure there were proper paths for our youth to take in order to become financially literate and successful. Bill clearly laid that out in an August 2016 article, where he mentioned his four teenagers were about to enter high school and maximizing their personal financial acumen was a large priority of his so they could independently make smart financial decisions, not only in their youth but also in their adult years of life.

He honestly noted parents often struggled with how to instill certain financial concepts and values into their children and how parenting in the mobile device age was very challenging. Keeping the world in mind, Bill noted adults had not been the best role models for children from a financial perspective with federal budget deficits, large amounts of consumer debt and an instant gratification culture and environment. Bill closed the article by noting parents had to take the time and have the courage to have frank discussions with their children in regards to basic and more complex financial concepts, like credit card debt, student loans and saving for retirement.

A March 2010 article quoted Bill describing retired BDO partner Terry Kelly as a great mentor, both professionally and personally. Bill stated, “... just his style, how he did things, how he worked and how he taught … he was a great teacher.” Bill helped Terry write the Money Matters column in its early days and, ultimately, took over the responsibility for this column upon Terry’s retirement from BDO. It is incredible how this has really has come full circle, and how Bill was truly able to become the same type of teacher as the mentor he looked up to so much in the earlier part of his career. Bill has been a go-to person for some of the most technical and challenging questions, and he made it a point to teach and help everyone get to the right conclusion.

We conclude this week’s article by thanking Bill for all he has done for BDO, the GRBJ reader base and the West Michigan business community during his 34-year career! The three of us who will be taking over responsibility for this column realize we have incredibly large shoes to fill, and we are fortunate to be able to use everything Bill has taught us to carry on his legacy with the column. Bill has been such a great mentor, colleague and teacher to all that have met him, and with his retirement, he will continue building his personal legacy with his community involvement and family commitments. Thanks, Bill, for always being a professional in everything that you do!

Kevin Patterson is an audit partner, Kelli Olson is a tax managing director and Eric Fischer is a tax senior manager with the local office of accounting firm BDO USA LLP. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily of BDO. The comments are general and not to be considered specific tax or accounting advice and cannot be relied upon for the purposes of avoiding penalties. Readers are advised to consult with their professional advisers before acting on any items discussed herein.

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