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Evans Bancorp, following the lead of other companies, has increased its first cash dividend for 2013 and declared an early payment at the end of this month 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 semiannual cash dividend of 24 cents per share, up 9 percent from 22 cents a share that was paid Oct. 9. That's an annualized yield of 3.1 percent on its stock. The company said the dividend, normally scheduled to be paid in April, will instead be paid Dec. 31 to shareholders of record 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 semiannual dividend for 2013 is in the best interest of our shareholders," President and CEO David J. Nasca said.

"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 Walmart 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