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

Victoria Atkins, the Treasury minister, acknowledged in response to ministerial questions that 1,043 HMRC tax compliance staff had been assigned to work on Brexit cases in the 2021-22 tax year. She added that a further 1,250 staff, who would normally be working on recovering unpaid taxes, have been moved to working on Covid-19 loan schemes — which have been subject to fraud.

“Civil servants are being moved from one crisis to another in a constant game of whack-a-mole, leaving taxes uncollected and public services deprived of cash,” said the Liberal Democrat party, which put the questions to Atkins.

Sarah Olney, Lib Dem Treasury spokesperson, said the transfer of about 10 per cent of HMRC tax compliance offers to Brexit and Covid duties came at a cost to public services.

Atkins revealed that £30.7bn had been recovered through compliance efforts in 2021-22 compared with £36.9bn in 2019-20, the year before the pandemic fully hit, a fall of more than £6bn.

“This Conservative government is in nonstop firefighting mode because of their gross incompetence, from the botched EU trade deal to the unforgivable mistakes made during the pandemic,” Olney said.

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

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

Read more about uncollected UK taxes here.