Tips for filing an Iowa state tax return

A red barn and farmhouse are pictured behind a golden-topped corn field in Iowa, where residents must file Iowa state tax returns. Image:

In a Nutshell

Iowa gave the world John Wayne, Herbert Hoover and the Winnebago (named after the county where the motor homes are built). Unfortunately, the Hawkeye State also boasts one of the highest income tax rates in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation.

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This article was fact-checked by our editors and reviewed by Rachel Weatherly, tax product specialist with Credit Karma Tax®. It has been updated for the 2019 tax year.

If you live in Iowa or earn income in the Hawkeye state, you face a potentially steep tax rate — at least for one more year.

For 2019, Iowa’s highest personal income tax rate is among the highest in the nation: 8.53%. Only Vermont (8.75%), New York (8.82%), Minnesota (9.85%), Oregon (9.9%), Hawaii (11%) and California (13.3%) have higher rates, according to the Tax Foundation.

But the state legislature just passed a tax reform law that will reduce the rates for individual income tax payers starting in 2019.


What are some basics of Iowa state taxes?

As an Iowa resident, you’ll get some extra time to file your state tax return after your federal return is due. The state also offers various tax deductions and credits to make it easier to lower how much you owe at tax time.

Taxing body

The Iowa Department of Revenue administers income tax in the state. If you have any questions about your state tax return, you have three ways to contact the office.

  • Submit an email request through the website.
  • Call customer service at 1-515-281-3114 or 1-800-367-3388. The team is available between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central time Monday through Thursday and between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Central time on Friday.
  • Visit the state office building in Des Moines.

Filing and payment deadline

Your Iowa state tax return is due on April 30 each year, which gives you a couple of weeks past the April 15 deadline for your federal return. If you need more time to file your taxes, pay at least 90% of what you owe by April 30 to automatically qualify for a six-month filing extension.

Filing statuses

You should usually use the same filing status on your Iowa state return as you do on your federal. Though married couples can choose to file jointly, separately on separate returns or separately on a combined return, regardless of how they filed their federal returns.

The filing statuses are …

  • Single
  • Head of household
  • Married filing jointly
  • Married filing separately on separate returns
  • Married filing separately on combined returns
  • Qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child

If you’re married but filing separately, the state allows you and your spouse to file your returns using the same form. Note that if you choose this option, both spouses are equally liable for the total amount of tax due.

Learn how tax filing status affects your tax bill

Iowa income tax rates

Iowa has a progressive tax system with a whopping nine tax brackets and rates. The same brackets and rates apply regardless of your filing status.

Here are the tax rates and income bracket thresholds for 2019.

Marginal tax rate Taxable income
0.33% $0–$1,638
0.67% $1,639–$3,276
2.25% $3,277–$6,552
4.14% $6,553–$14,742
5.63% $14,743–$24,570
5.96% $24,571–$32,760
6.25% $32,761–$49,140
7.44% $49,141–$73,710
8.53% $73,711 or more

What are the 2019 federal tax brackets?

What are some Iowa state tax breaks to know?

When filing your tax returns, it’s important to know which tax breaks you can use to reduce how much you owe. Here’s information on some tax deductions and credits the state offers to its taxpayers.

Standard deduction

When you file your return, you can opt to take the standard deduction offered to all taxpayers, or you can itemize your deductions. If you choose the Iowa standard deduction, here’s what you can claim for 2019 based on your filing status.

  • Single: $2,080
  • Head of household: $5,120
  • Married filing jointly: $5,120
  • Married filing separately: $2,080
  • Qualifying widow(er) with a dependent child: $5,120

Exemptions and income adjustments

Iowa allows taxpayers to make certain income adjustments before they take their standard deduction or itemize deductions. Here were some of the adjustments available for 2019.

  • Payments to IRAs, or to Keogh or SEP retirement accounts
  • A portion of any self-employment tax you paid
  • Health insurance premiums
  • Alimony paid
  • Income from a pension or retirement account
  • Moving expenses (although most taxpayers can no longer deduct this on their federal returns)
  • Some contributions to the College Savings Iowa 529 plan

Itemized deductions

Some states require you to itemize on the state return only if you itemized deductions on your federal return. Iowa allows you to itemize deductions, even if you did not do so on the federal form. If you’ve incurred enough eligible expenses during the tax year to exceed the state’s standard deduction, you may decide to itemize instead.

In general, the state’s itemized deductions are the same as those found on your federal return.

Here are some examples of itemized deductions available for 2019.

  • Medical and dental expenses You can take a deduction on your Iowa return following federal rules for medical and dental expenses. But you must reduce the deduction amount by the amount you reported as deductible health insurance in the adjustments portion of your Iowa state tax return.
  • Real estate taxes You can deduct the same amount for real estate taxes as you did on your federal itemized deductions.
  • Interest paid You can claim mortgage interest and points as allowed on your federal return, and the excess paid during the tax year.
  • Gifts to charity You can’t claim food donations on your Iowa return, but you can claim cash or check contributions. Also, deductions for qualifying conservation contributions are limited to 30% of your federal adjusted gross income. Check your tax form instructions for more exceptions to federal rules.

FAST FACTS

What's the difference between a tax credit and a tax deduction?

A tax deduction reduces the amount of income you pay taxes on and could help reduce the amount of tax you owe. Tax credits are dollar-for-dollar reductions in the amount of tax you owe.

Some tax credits, like the federal earned income tax credit, may even increase your refund. If the refundable tax credit lowers your tax bill to zero, you may be able to get any remaining balance of the credit as a refund.

Learn more about tax deductions vs. tax credits.

Tax credits

Instead of reducing your taxable income, tax credits directly reduce your total tax liability. Here are some of the tax credits the state of Iowa provided for its citizens in 2019.

  • Adoption tax credit For each child you adopted, you can claim up to $5,000 for unreimbursed expenses related to the adoption.
  • Personal credit You can claim a $40 per-person credit for you, your spouse and your dependents.
  • Tuition and textbook credit If you have one or more dependents attending K–12 school in an accredited Iowa school, you can claim 25% of the amount you paid in tuition and for textbooks, up to $250 total per child.

How can I file an Iowa state tax return?

According to the Iowa Department of Revenue, 92% of state residents e-filed their state 2018 returns in 2019. You can do so through the state’s website, or you can file both your federal and single-state returns for free through Credit Karma Tax®.

If you’d rather file a paper return, you can print out your tax forms from the state website.

Whether you owe taxes or are expecting a refund, here’s where you can mail your return.

Iowa Income Tax Document Processing
P.O. Box 9187
Des Moines, IA 50306-9187

If you’re enclosing a payment with your return, make the check out to “Treasurer, State of Iowa.”

What if I owe and can’t pay?

If you have a tax bill and can’t pay the full amount right away, you should pay as much as you can by the filing deadline. If you file on time but can’t pay at least 90% of the amount you owe by April 30, you’ll be charged a 5% penalty and 0.6% interest per month or part of a month on the unpaid balance until it’s paid in full.

After you’ve received a 20-day notice of tax due or a notice of assessment (if you’ve requested an appeal), you can set up a short-term payment plan with the state through its PayDebt website. The maximum term available is 36 months and the minimum monthly payment is $10.

What can you do if you can't pay your federal tax bill on time

How can I track an Iowa tax refund?

If you’re expecting a refund and it’s been at least two business days since you filed electronically, you can check the status online. You’ll need your Social Security number, the tax year and your refund amount to get an update.

If you filed a paper return, it can take longer to get into the system and receive your refund.


Bottom line

Before you file your Iowa state tax return, make sure you know which tax breaks are available to you. To avoid paying interest and penalties, file and pay your Iowa state taxes by April 30.


Rachel Weatherly is a tax product specialist with Credit Karma Tax®. She studied accounting and finance at Western Carolina University and has also worked as a tax analyst. You can find her on LinkedIn.