Abstract The vertical valence ionization potentials of Ne, H 2O and N 2 have been calculated by Rayleigh-Schrödinger perturbation and configuration interaction methods. The calculations were carried out in the space of a single determinant reference state and its single and double excitations, using both the N and N - 1 electron Hartree-Fock orbitals as hole/particle bases. The perturbation series for the ion state were generally found to converge fairly slowly in the N electron Hartree-Fock (frozen) orbital basis, but considerably faster in the appropriate N - 1 electron RHF (relaxed) orbital basis. In certain cases, however, due to near-degeneracy effects, partial, and even complete, breakdown of the (non-degenerate) perturbation treatment was observed. The effects of higher excitations on the ionization potentials were estimated by the approximate coupled pair techniques CPA′ and CPA″ as well as by a Davidson type correction formula. The final, fully converged CPA″ results are generally in good agreement with those from PNO-CEPA and Green's function calculations as well as experiment.