"Who's Doing 409A Valuations These Days?" From William Carleton, Esq.
"Industry practice is currently in flux right now. Generally speaking, early stage companies that are not venture backed are by and large not hiring independent valuation firms and instead are determining FMV in other ways. Venture backed companies, on the other hand, still appear to seek the extra comfort of an outside appraisal (depending on your point of view, this reflects an appropriately professional prudence, little different than insisting a startup purchase D&O insurance; or else it reflects an aversion to exposure of firm members who would appear to be qualified, under 409A, as persons “with significant knowledge and experience” at valuations). As Davis Wright attorney Joe Wallin points out on his firm’s startup blog, third party appraisals are not required. At the same time, a formal valuation may be better at shifting the burden to the IRS to prove that a particular valuation is not reasonable. Prices for such appraisals, at least from the “cottage industry” shops and programs, have come down now, within a range of from $3000 to $7000 (some of these providers will commit to doing annual updates at a lower rate). That’s still a lot for most startups to spend these days. And there’s also a question as to whether some investors will respect valuations from some of the lower end providers."