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Gentoo Linux Becomes a Software in the Public Interest Project Because…Bookkeeping and Taxes

The Gentoo Linux distribution is in the process of shuttering its Gentoo Foundation now that it’s become a Software in the Public Interest project, which gives it tax exempt status and much, much more.

Gentoo penguin in the Falkland Islands.
Gentoo penguins enjoying a stroll on the beach in the Falkland Islands. | Ben Tubby, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commonshttp

As of March, Gentoo Linux has signed up and been accepted as a project of Software in the Public Interest. For Gentoo, this means the organization will eventually be able to do away with the Gentoo Foundation, which till now has been tasked with all of the nontechnical issues associated with running an organization, such as keeping the rent paid, the lights on, and the tax man happy.

For Gentoo users, this means their distro will be on a better economic footing, partly because they’ll be saving a lot because SPI will be doing a lot of the work that the Gentoo Foundation currently has to spend money to get done, and partly because they’re likely to see increased donations since donating to Gentoo is suddenly tax deductible, which its never been before.

Also, the new nonprofit status also opens the door for additional funding from sponsorship programs that are only available to verified 501(c)(3) organizations.

Gentoo: Linux for the Tech Savvy

If you’re new to Linux, Gentoo is a Linux distribution that’s pretty much designed by default for tech savvy users and not for us mere mortals. The distro doesn’t supply a binary version that can be installed from a thumb drive. With Gentoo, you have to create your own binaries by compiling the software from the source code, which means that users who know how can optimize the software specifically for the equipment on which they’ll be running it.

Users also pick and choose which components they want to include and which they want to leave behind, so that they end up with a system that serves their purposes to a T. This also gives them a system that is lightening fast because it’s not using any resources that aren’t absolutely necessary.

That last tidbit about speed explains the distro’s name. The gentoo penguin, it seems, is the fastest swimming of all penguin species, which indicates that Gentoo Linux is supposed to be to Linux what gentoo penguins are to… well, penguins.

The distro has been around since 2002, so it’s not that old even though it predates Ubuntu by a couple of years. It can be made to run on a huge number of architectures, including x86, PowerPC, SPARC, DEC Alpha, ARM, MIPS, PA-RISC, and (I’m pretty certain although I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere I’ve looked) RISC-V. Compare that to AlmaLinux, which brags that it supports a whopping four architectures.

What Software in the Public Interest Does for Gentoo

Being an SPI project comes with many of the same benefits that any software organization gets when it signs up to be under the wing of a foundation, such as the Linux Foundation or the Apache Foundation. SPI is a good fit for Gentoo, because unlike the Linux Foundation it already has experience hosting other Linux distros, notably Arch and Debian, making it familiar with the territory.

Now that it’s in the door and covered tax-wise by SPI’s nonprofit 501(c)(3) tax license it might qualify for matching funds programs, depending on jurisdiction, the local tax laws of the donor, and other things. The new tax status will also reduce tax expenditures for the organization, which says that it’s lately been using depreciation as a way of keeping its tax bill down, which it admits “is not a sustainable strategy” in the long run.

The nonprofit status will also mean lower service fees. As an example, Gentoo explains that PayPal fees on user donations will now be reduced to about one percent per transaction, which will amount to significant savings. The biggest savings, however, will probably come in the form of reduced non-technical administration costs. For example, until now the organization has been spending $1,500 each year on tax preparation, which now disappears as SPI will be filing the returns.

Looking Ahead

Changes are already in effect for how donations are made, since SPI is taking care of handling all transactions. Going forward, those who wish to make a donation should go to SPI’s Gentoo Page, where a choice is offered to donate either through PayPal or Click & Pledge, the latter being a service that offers a payment solution for fundraising organizations.

All of this means the eventual end of the Gentoo Foundation.

“Our intention is to eventually transfer the existing assets to SPI and dissolve the Gentoo Foundation,” the organization said on its website. “The precise steps needed on the way to this objective are still under discussion.”

Oh, and none of this applies for those of you who live in the EU, where the song remains the same (apologies to Led Zeppelin).

“F├Ârderverein Gentoo e.V. will continue to exist independently. It is also recognized to serve public-benefit purposes (┬ž 52 Fiscal Code of Germany), meaning that donations are tax-deductible in the E.U.”

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