What is the Iowa School District/EMS Surtax?

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Line 54 of the Iowa Form 1040 is the “School district surtax or EMS Surtax.” What is this?

This is an optional additional tax, assessed by school districts and county EMS agencies*, and collected on Iowa tax returns.

*-Note: for as long as I can remember, only one county has assessed an EMS surtax, and that is Appanoose County. Dozens of school districts assess a surtax though.

One: It Doesn’t Always Apply

Not every county or school district assesses a surtax. You can find a list, organized first by county and then by school district, here.

Two: It’s Based on Where You Live, NOT Where You Send Your Kids to School

Step two is to determine the county you live in and which school district you lived in on December 31st. Note that the surtax is based on where you live, not on where you send your kids to school. You might open-enroll your kids into a different school district, but that’s not the district you’d pay the surtax to.

Three: Look at the Chart to Determine the Surtax Amount

Once you’ve determined your county and school district, you look at the list I linked to in “One” above to find if there’s a surtax.

The Surtax is Multiplied By Your Income Tax Liability

The surtax shows as a percentage of your total income tax liability after non-refundable credits. So for example, if there’s a 5% surtax and your tax liability is $1,000, you’ll owe a surtax of $50 (5% of 1,000).


Let’s use me as an example. I live in Warren County, in the Indianola School District. Looking at the list, I first find Warren County, and then Indianola, and I see that Indianola has a 5% surtax. So I would account for this surtax as 5% of whatever my total tax liability was.

Now let’s say I live in Warren County but in the Norwalk School District instead. Norwalk doesn’t assess a surtax, so the surtax amount would be 0 (I wouldn’t owe a surtax).

(NOTE: for the one county where the EMS surtax applies [Appanoose County], the EMS surtax is added into the school district surtax amount, so you don’t need to know which EMS agency applies to you, you’d just find Appanoose County and your school district, and the school and EMS surtax would be rolled into one.)