Ministers must set up an emergency taskforce to tackle the backlog at HMRC, which has hindered growth, chartered accountancy body ICAEW has said.

In a series of recommendations made to the government ahead of the Spring Budget, ICAEW has called for the immediate creation of a cross-sector taskforce to address the long-standing delays at HMRC.

ICAEW has recommended the emergency taskforce to be charged with identifying areas for support to end delays and recommending to HMRC improvements to service standards to enable business growth.

Taxpayers and accountants are having to wait up to a year for HMRC to respond to queries over the phone or by post, ICAEW said, while callers report that they have waited for more than an hour before being cut off.

Customer service staffing levels at HMRC have reduced from 25,500 to 19,500 people, causing long delays for both agents and taxpayers.

These delays were the biggest area of complaint made by ICAEW members in 2022, the Institute added, whether relating to financial or other resource constraints.

ICAEW chief executive, Michael Izza, said: “The delays at HMRC are unacceptable, need to be addressed promptly and are acting as a drag on the UK’s economic growth.

“We’re calling on ministers to set up an emergency taskforce to identify steps to eliminate HMRC’s backlog and improve its service standards, so that in the future it supports, not inhibits, business growth and maximises the tax receipts needed to fund public services.

“HMRC performs a vital function supporting businesses and growth, for example ensuring new businesses can register promptly for VAT, and its work is essential in collecting tax receipts to fund public services. Despite this vital role and the commitment from hardworking civil servants, HMRC is often overlooked and overstretched, leading to problems, and we would be pleased to work with HMRC to tackle these issues.”

The taskforce should include representatives from professional bodies and from business, who would be empowered to make recommendations for HMRC to improve their services and clear their backlog, ICAEW said.