January 28, 2023

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More than 1,000 tax compliance officers at HMRC have been appointed to work on Brexit issues © Carmen Reichman / FT

Billions of pounds in tax are being left uncollected in the UK because nearly 2,300 HM Revenue and Customs Compliance staff have been relocated to work on Brexit and Covid-19 schemes.

Victoria Atkins, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has acknowledged in response to ministerial questions that 1,043 tax compliance officers have been appointed at HMRC to work on Brexit issues in the 2021-22 tax year. She added that an additional 1,250 staff, who would normally work on recovering unpaid taxes, have been moved to work on Covid-19 loan schemes – which have been defrauded.

“Civil servants are being moved from one crisis to the next in a constant multiplication game, leaving uncollected taxes and cashless public services,” said the Liberal Democrats, who asked Atkins the questions.

Moving about 10 per cent of HMRC’s tax compliance bids into Brexit and Covid charges came at a cost to public services, said Sarah Olney, a spokeswoman for the Treasury in Lib Deem.

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 in full, a drop of more than £6bn.

“This Conservative government is in non-stop firefighting mode over its egregious incompetence, from the failed trade deal with the European Union to the unforgivable mistakes made during the pandemic,” Olney said.

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

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

Read more about UK uncollected taxes here.

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