An impact statement is most commonly a document produced by a government or local authority when it proposes a new law or regulation. The statement will usually explore the costs of introducing and enforcing the rules and the benefits to society of doing so. In some cases, the statement will apply to a project rather than new rules. An impact statement may also assess the environmental consequences of a policy.
The phrase impact statement is most commonly used in Australia and New Zealand. In most Western countries, it is better known as a regulatory impact analysis. Within the US, the concept originally had the name "inflation impact assessment," but this became outdated as the analysis expanded to cover a wider scope.
Exactly what is included in an impact statement varies widely from system to system and place to place. The most common format begins with an introduction to the problem and the proposed solution, along with any alternative solutions that can be considered. The statement will then look at the costs and benefits of each of the solutions. Finally, it will give a recommendation of whether the proposed solution appears to be the best option, along with recommendations for any further research and consultation that might be necessary.
Most impact statements will use some form of cost-benefit analysis. This is a two-stage process that begins by identifying the benefits to society that are likely to result from the law or project. It then attempts to put a monetary value on these costs and benefits. The figures are usually adjusted to take into account the fact that some costs will be incurred and benefits received in future years when inflation may have had an effect.
Another form of impact statement is the environmental impact statement. This is required for federal projects in the United States, though exceptions can be made for emergency situations such as if a major bridge needs to be rebuilt after collapsing. The statement follows a similar format to a regulatory impact analysis document, but concentrates specifically on environmental effects.
There is such a thing as an impact statement outside of a business or government setting. The most common use is in the legal system of some countries. An impact statement here is made by the victim of a crime to a court after it has convicted the offender. The statement can be taken into account when deciding upon a sentence.