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Evans Bancorp, following the lead of several other companies, has raised its cash dividend and declared an early payment for 2013, to be paid by the end of this month in order to help shareholders avoid worries surrounding the “fiscal cliff” crisis and extra taxes on dividends that may take effect next year.

The Hamburg-based parent of Evans Bank said its board had declared a semi-annual cash dividend of 24 cents per share, up 9 percent from 22 cents a share that was paid on Oct. 9. That’s an annualized yield of 3.1 percent on its stock. Additionally, the company said the dividend, normally scheduled to be paid in April, will instead be paid on Dec. 31 to shareholders of record on Dec. 24. Evans has 4.1 million outstanding shares.

“Given the uncertainty surrounding the federal tax treatment of dividends in the future, we believe the prepayment of our first semi-annual dividend for 2013 is in the best interest of our shareholders,” President and CEO David J. Nasca said in a press release. “The increase and acceleration of our dividend payment is attributable to the strength of our balance sheet and our strong capital position.”

The announcement follows similar decisions by other companies, such as Wal-Mart Stores, Costco, Caterpillar Inc., Washington Post Co., Briggs & Stratton and Legg Mason, as well as local firms such as Northwest Bancshares and National Fuel Gas Co.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com