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William W. Nelson

AA Contact Info

Sarah Herklotz
Phone: 919.821.6749


Bill Nelson is co-leader of the firm’s tax group. Bill is recognized as a leading attorney in tax law in Chambers USA, receiving the highest ranking available. Clients say Bill is "responsive, gracious, patient, kind, thoughtful and provides deep insight. He has a very thorough knowledge of North Carolina tax law and has built strong relationships within the Department and the legislature" (Chambers USA 2020), " a brilliant tax lawyer who is a complete pleasure to work with in all respects." "He is fantastic - responsive, practical and a good listener" (Chambers USA 2021) and a "sophisticated lawyer who is very creative" (Chambers USA 2022).

Bill's experience includes transactional tax planning, tax controversies and litigation, dealing with state and federal tax authorities as administrative agencies and representing taxpayers before the North Carolina General Assembly. He has written and spoken on a variety of federal and state tax topics and has been active in a number of state tax and business law legislative reform efforts.

Before joining Smith Anderson, Bill practiced with a prominent international law firm in Los Angeles.

  • Chairman, North Carolina Chamber Tax Committee
  • Member, UNC Tax Institute Board of Advisors
  • Chancellor, Anglican Diocese of the Carolinas
  • Past Chair, North Carolina Bar Association Tax Section
  • North Carolina Bar Association
  • Wake County Bar Association
  • Past Member, North Carolina Bar Foundation Endowment Committee
  • Fellow, American College of Tax Counsel
  • Best Lawyers®, Tax Law (2006-2022)
  • Best Lawyers®, "Lawyer of the Year," Raleigh Tax Law (2020)
  • Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, Tax (2020-2022)
  • Business North Carolina Legal Elite
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers (2007-2019)

Academic Appointments

  • Guest Lecturer, Duke University School of Law, 2016-2022
  • Adjunct Professor of Law, UNC School of Law, Spring Semester 2009



  • Advised a private equity fund in its acquisition of a contract research organization focused on the ophthalmology industry for an undisclosed amount.
  • Represented an international research-oriented healthcare group in the acquisition of worldwide product rights from a Canadian pharmaceutical company.
  • Advised a private equity fund in its acquisition of a leading provider of staffing resources to the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies for clinical trial needs.
  • Advised a global CRO business in the staged acquisition of the leading interactive response technology provider for $75 million in value.
  • Represented a global financial services technology company in its acquisition of a leading provider of deal analytics and valuation technology.
  • Represented a major regional distributor of industrial gases in a strategic merger of equals of two similarly situated businesses.
  • Advised a pharmaceutical and biotech construction company and its shareholders in a stock sale transaction for $25.5 million.
  • Represented a specialty pharmaceutical company in a $120 million merger with a subsidiary of a publicly-traded international pharmaceutical company.
  • Represented a leading provider of pharmacy-based patient care solutions and medication synchronization services to independent and chain pharmacies in its approximately $41 million sale of the company to a publicly traded buyer.
  • Advised an online gaming company in an acquisition of a UK-based pioneer in the "kidtech" market.
  • Advised a private equity fund in its acquisition of a specialty pharmaceutical company.
Tax Controversy
  • Represented national grocery chain in property tax appeal of store properties.
  • Represented oil distribution company in successful defense of assessment of sales tax on leased oil tanks.
  • Represented industrial metal recycler in successful defense of sales tax assessment.
  • Represented various insurance companies in major North Carolina tax credit litigation.
  • Represented property and casualty insurance company in gross premiums tax controversy.
  • Represented major clinical research organization in successful business personal property tax appeal.
  • Represented major film studio in successful business personal property tax appeal.
  • Represented individual taxpayers in successful defense of assessment based on residency  status.
  • Represented national bank in property tax appeal of datacenter property.

News & Publications



Speaking Engagements


  • Presenter, "North Carolina Tax Update," NCBA 2021 Tax Section Program, Live Webcast
  • Co-Presenter, "Legislative Update," NCACPA NC State & Local Tax Conference Webcast
  • Co-Presenter, "Legislative, NC Taxes and Covid-19 Liability Update," NCACPA Business & Industry Fall Virtual Conference
  • Speaker, "Overview of CARES Act Tax Relief for Businesses," Live Webinar hosted by NC Chamber
  • Co-Speaker, "State Legislative Issues," ncaCPA's 2019 Members in Business & Industry Spring Conference, Greensboro, N.C.
  • Speaker, "Significant Changes in Multi-State Taxes, South Dakota v. Wayfair," North Carolina State and Local Tax Conference, Greensboro N.C.
  • Speaker, "South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc.: The Decision & Implications," Tax Executives Institute, Inc. Carolinas Chapter, Durham, N.C.
  • Speaker, "South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc.: The Decision & Implications," Tax Executives Institute, Inc. Carolinas Chapter, Charlotte, N.C.
  • Speaker, "Reforming North Carolina’s Tax System," University of North Carolina's 2016 Festival of Legal Learning, Chapel Hill, N.C.
  • Speaker, "Key Issues for Manufacturing - Single Sales Factor and Franchise Tax Reform," North Carolina Chamber's Annual Tax Conference, Charlotte, N.C.
  • Speaker, "North Carolina Tax Reform and its Impact on Business," North Carolina Chamber’s Annual Tax Conference, Charlotte, N.C.

Bar & Court Admissions

  • North Carolina
  • California


University of North Carolina, J.D., with high honors, 1985

University of North Carolina, A.B. 1982

  • Phi Beta Kappa
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