A nationwide program offering free tax advice and return preparation for low- and middle-income Americans is getting under way this week at thousands of locations, including at least 76 on Long Island.

Each location sets its own kickoff dates for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, with most opening between now and early next month, said a spokeswoman for the IRS, which oversees the program. Most sites close the program after April 15.

Families earning no more than $51,000 a year are eligible, the IRS said.

Long Islanders can find the nearest location by entering their ZIP codes on this IRS Web page: irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep or by calling 800-906-9887.

A separate IRS program, Tax Counseling for the Elderly, offers similar assistance for low- to moderate-income taxpayers 60 and older in conjunction with the AARP Tax-Aide program. Locations for this service can be found by going to aarp.org (scroll down to Advocacy & Programs and choose AARP Foundation Tax-Aide), or calling 888-227-7669.

The Bethpage Federal Credit Union said it plans to offer the VITA program at 12 of its Nassau and Suffolk branches, making it the program's largest local participant.

Bethpage Federal's program starts Wednesday and runs through April 13 at branches in Elmont, Farmingdale, Freeport, Hempstead, Massapequa, Roosevelt, Westbury, Bay Shore, Central Islip, Patchogue, West Babylon and Riverhead. It said 150 IRS-certified volunteers, including some who speak Spanish, will be available Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons. Taxpayers need not be Bethpage members to receive help. Specific times and branch addresses are at www.bethpagefcu.com/community and available by calling 800-628-7070.

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Other sites are public libraries, the Hofstra Law School, Elmont High School and six Teachers Federal Credit Union branches -- in Amityville, Bay Shore, East Northport, Smithtown, South Setauket and Farmingville, according to a Teachers spokesman.