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Air Methods to pay special dividend of $7

DENVER (AP) -- Air Methods Corp. will pay a special dividend of $7 per share to help investors avoid tax increases expected to begin in 2013.

The air medical transportation company said late Monday that the dividend, which is issued on a pre-split basis, is payable on Dec. 28 to shareholders of record as of Dec. 20. It said it will use cash and additional borrowings under its senior credit facility to pay for the dividends.

Shareholders approved a 3-for-1 stock split earlier this month, with the new shares to be distributed on or about Dec. 28.

Based on the company's roughly 13 million shares outstanding eligible for the dividend, the total payout will be about $91 million.

Air Methods is the is the latest company to move up its quarterly payout or issue a special end-of-year payment to protect investors from potentially having to pay higher taxes on dividend income starting in January.

Since 2003 investors have paid a maximum 15 percent on dividend income. But that historically low rate will expire in January unless Congress and President Barack Obama reach a compromise on taxes and government spending. As it stands, dividends will be taxed as ordinary income in 2013, the same as wages, so rates will go up depending on which income bracket a taxpayer is in. For the highest earners, the dividend rate would jump to 43.4 percent.

Shares of Denver-based Air Methods jumped more than 2 percent to $114.71 in afternoon trading Tuesday. Its shares have traded between $77.23 and $124.19 in the past 52 weeks.