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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Etsy Style

Etsy says the sellers who make things to sell on its site are not part of a “charming little trend,” and it is taking its case to Washington, DC with some bold proposals. Among the ideas is a revolutionary way to handle the quarterly estimated tax obligation faced by the self-employed.

Etsy just released a guide called, “A Call to Action: Five Proposals to Support the Emerging Maker Economy.” It believes workforce development programs should include entrepreneurship training, and that government should help small-scale makers source materials and find partners. It also believes there should be a micro-advocate in every agency, citing legislation enacted in 2010 known as CPSC that imposes strict regulations on anyone selling items to children, pointing to the CPSC Small Business Ombudsman who “travels the country to educate makers.”

Two other proposals include simplifying what Etsy calls the “patchwork quilt of international shipping practices, customs and duties requirements” that should be harmonized across countries; and providing economic security for every entrepreneur.

The online marketplace joins many other ecommerce and tech companies, including eBay and Amazon, in lobbying lawmakers about causes near and dear to their heart.

Financial insecurity is one of the most difficult challenges that micro-businesses face, Etsy explains, citing a study that showed 55% of micro businesses lacked sufficient savings to cover one month of business expenses, and 30% lacked any businesses savings at all. “To compound these challenges, personal and business finances are often inexorably linked – insecurity in business translates directly into financial challenges at home. Income volatility is compounded by the lack of benefits that traditionally come with full-time employment, including health insurance, retirement plans, and unemployment insurance.”

So Etsy proposes the government allow the self-employed to use their quarterly estimated taxes as a “tax-advantaged emergency savings account” that they could use to cover unexpected expenses over the course of the year. “At the end of the year, entrepreneurs could use their savings to pay their annual taxes, resulting in no lost revenue for the government.”

And, as others have done before it, Etsy is putting faces to its cause. In its Call to Action guide, Etsy shares the story of cosmetics maker and micro seller Shareta Barnes of BlackWidowBalm, who says it’s important for her to remain in compliance with government regulations.

Etsy describes the challenge another seller has in shipping internationally. Christina Anton of BooandBooFactory says, “The problems I’ve had across international borders mainly involve customs, restrictions, duties, and VAT. Many buyers aren’t aware of these issues so I’ve had to do plenty of research to make sure the packages will arrive safely and in a timely manner without surprising the customer with fees.”

Etsy also announced three commitments it was making, including to product safety, which you can find in its Call to Action guide found on its website, accessible from this Etsy blog post.


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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.