Three subspecies traditionally are recognized for Schistochlamys ruficapillus (Dickinson and Christidis 2014):
S. r. capistrata: The more eastern subspecies with a range extending from southern Pará to Maranhão and Bahia. This subspecies is described as having a more pale cinnamon color on the throat and upper chest as well as duller head coloration. It is also described as having a shorter tail and measuring generally smaller than S. r. ruficapillus (Hilty 2011).
S. r. sicki: The more western subspecies found in eastern Mato Grosso. This subspecies is described as having a darker and richer coloration (Hilty 2011).
S. r. ruficapillus: The more southern subspecies with a range extending from southern Minas Gerais to eastern Parańa. There are also recent reports of this species found in eastern Paraguay and northeastern Argentina (Lopes and Gonzaga 2014). See Detailed Description.
Recent research suggests the morphological variation present between the subspecies is likely the result of a cline, in accordance with Bergmann's Rule, although in central Brazil, where Cinnamon Tanager overlaps with the congeneric (and very similar) Black-faced Tanager (Schistochlamys melanopis), this general pattern may be obscured by character displacementa (Lopes and Gonzaga 2014). Lopes and Gonzaga (2014) also suggest that Cinnamon Tanager is highly variable, geographic variation in plumage is not correlated with variation in body side, and that there are many specimens with characters that intermediate between those ascribed to the different subspecies. Therefore, Lopes and Gonzaga (2014) suggest that Cinnamon Tanager should be considered monotypic, although it is highly morphologically variable.