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More than 1,000 HMRC tax compliance staff had been assigned to Brexit-related cases © Carmen Reichman/FT

Billions of pounds of tax go uncollected in the UK as nearly 2,300 tax compliance staff from HM Revenue & Customs have been transferred to work on Brexit and Covid-19 programmes.

Victoria Atkins, the Treasury Secretary, acknowledged in response to ministerial questions that 1,043 tax compliance staff at HMRC had been assigned to work on Brexit cases in the 2021-22 tax year. She added that another 1,250 staff, who would normally work collecting unpaid taxes, have been transferred to work on Covid-19 loan schemes – which have been subject to fraud.

“Civil servants are moved from crisis to crisis in a constant game of molesting, leaving taxes uncollected and public services starved of money,” said the Liberal Democrats, who took the questions to Atkins.

Lib Dem Treasury spokeswoman Sarah Olney said shifting around 10% of HMRC’s tax compliance tenders to Brexit and Covid duty had a cost to public services.

Atkins revealed that £30.7bn was recovered through compliance efforts in 2021-22, compared to £36.9bn in 2019-20, the year before the pandemic hit fully, a drop of more than £6 billion.

“This Conservative government is in non-stop firefighting mode due to its flagrant incompetence, from the botched trade deal with the EU to the unforgivable mistakes made during the pandemic,” Olney said.

HMRC said: “We are moving resources where and when they are most needed and our performance is reflected in the fact that we raised a record sum for UK public services last year.

“The National Audit Office has recognized that HMRC’s compliance work provides good value to the taxpayer.”

Find out more about uncollected UK taxes here.

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