The Golden-naped Tanager has six currently recognized subspecies: Tangara ruficervix ruficervix, Tangara ruficervix taylori, Tangara ruficervix leucotis, Tangara ruficervix amabilis, Tangara ruficervix inca, and Tangara ruficervix fulvicervix (Storer 1970, Clements et al. 2010, Hilty 2011). These six subspecies can be divided into two groups. The four northern subspecies ( ruficervix, taylori, leucotis, and amabilis), which occur from Colombia south to central Peru, primarily are turquoise blue, with some violet-blue on the crown and a golden nape (Isler and Isler 1987). The two southern subspecies (inca and fulvicervix), which occur from central Peru south to Bolivia, is deeper blue, with a narrower, more rufescent nape patch (Isler and Isler 1987).
ruficervix is turquoise blue and can be distinguished by bluish white ear coverts and a black spot just below the ear coverts (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). This subspecies is found in the Andes of Colombia and Santa Marta Mountains (Storer 1970).
taylori is turquoise blue and can be distinguished by golden spots on its ear coverts (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990); this subspecies occurs in southeastern Colombia and eastern Ecuador (Storer 1970).
leucotis is turquoise blue and can be distinguished by a larger bill and shorter wings and tail than the other subspecies (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). It occurs in subtropical western Ecuador (Storer 1970).
amabilis is turquoise mlue and is similar to taylori but the crown is lighter and the nape is a darker gold (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). This subspecies occurs in subtropical northern and central Peru (Storer 1970).
inca is violet-blue and has the largest bill and the palest flanks of the six subspecies (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). It occurs in subtropical southern Peru (Storer 1970).
fulvicervix is violet-blue and is the largest of the six subspecies (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). It occurs in the Yungas of northwestern Bolivia (Storer 1970).