We present multireference calculations for the characterization of ring inversion and double bond shifting in cyclooctatetraene. The results show that it is necessary to treat the dynamical correlation very accurately to obtain correct values for the barrier heights. This can be done, for example, with multireference configuration interaction or with perturbation theory of third order. However, detailed analysis also shows that already a complete active space self-consistent field treatment describes the processes surprisingly well. Thus, this method could be used as a computationally cheap method, for example, for dynamics simulations. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.