Three subspecies of the Rufous-winged Tanager currently are recognized.
T. l. dalmasi is found in western and central Panama in Chiriqui and Veraguas. It is distinguished by a small spot of blue on its chin that does not extend to its breast as it does T. l. lavinia (Wetmore et al. 1984).
T. l. lavinia is found in eastern Panama, western Colombia (including Gorgona Island), and northwestern Ecuador. It is characterized by a long, thin blue stripe extending from the center of its throat to its breast (Wetmore et al. 1984).
T. l. cara is a third subspecies found in eastern Guatemala to Costa Rica (Wetmore et al. 1984). This subspecies is more uncommon and rare than the other two subspecies (Slud 1964). Blue is only present on the belly, not the breast or throat.