By Eva Lang - I recently attended a presentation by an estate tax attorney on the topic of business succession and estate planning. He prefaced his remarks with a “story” about an attorney, an accountant, and an appraiser. All three were asked the question, “what is 2+2?” The attorney replied that it was complicated question that would require some research on his part at his normal $500 per hour billing rate. The accountant answered “4.” The appraiser then closed the door, pulled the blinds and whispered “what do you want it to be?” There was a small ripple of laughter throughout the audience but I just groaned. Unfortunately, there are enough bad appraisers (of all asset classes) out there that such unethical behavior can still get a laugh.
In my role as executive director of the Financial Consulting Group, I work with more than 500 business valuation and litigation experts. In my volunteer work with the AICPA and ASA, I have had the opportunity to get to know many more appraisers. While I do occasionally run across an appraiser with “flexible math skills” or someone who flirts with advocacy, the vast majority of the appraisers I’ve met are dedicated to the highest standards of professional ethics. This means coming to the same conclusion of value regardless of whether your client is the IRS or the taxpayer. It means adherence to our professional standards such as the Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice and the recently adopted AICPA Statement on Standards for Valuation Services. And it can mean turning down work from attorneys who push for a specific answer. With so many good appraisers out there, hopefully, we will soon see a day when a joke like this will not get a laugh.