BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- The dividend clock is ticking. Are you ready for it? As the so-called fiscal cliff comes closer, one key component of the tax increases set to trigger on January 1 is the treatment of dividend income. This item is set to change after a decade of record-low tax rates for unearned income. Since 2003, we've gotten accustomed to paying Uncle Sam just 15% of our dividend earnings, but barring a deal between the White House and Congress before year-end, that rate jumps up to whatever you pay for regular income. That change could have a real, negative impact on income investors, a group that's already gotten shellacked in the last several years on the heels of record-low interest rates and comparatively high inflation. As a dividend seeker, you've got to fill that gap somehow; that's why today, we'll focus on finding likely dividend hikes for the coming quarter.
In other words, these five firms are getting ready to boost dividends; they just don't know it yet. In the past few months, we've had some stellar success in finding future dividend hikes just by zeroing in on a few key factors. Now we'll look at our crystal ball and try to do it again. For our purposes, that "crystal ball" is composed of a few factors: Namely a solid balance sheet, a low payout ratio, and a history of dividend hikes. While those items don't guarantee dividend announcements in the next month or three, they do dramatically increase the odds that management will hike their cash payouts, especially as investors start to get antsy about this late-2012 correction. Without further ado, here's a look at five stocks that could be about to increase their dividend payments in the next quarter.