Thanks for your question. I am Sam and I am one of the UK tax experts here on Just Answer.
First, if HMRC are not aware, write to advise that the self employment cased in Jan 2012 - this should allow them to agree that the tax return for 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 need not be completed. But advise them that you had every reason to believe that the accountant you had engaged had filed these earlier returns for you and you are pursuing this matter with them. Whilst this in itself, is sadly, not grounds for appeal to have the penalties reduced to NIL, if you have evidence of the fact that the accountant advised these had been filed AND had not received any correspondence from HMRC (because it was going to this accountant)until now, then they might look at whether there is blame to attributed to the accountant and consider this further (but this I must advise is very rare)
Second - get those returns in which might require you engaging another accountant, if you feel the need, this will prevent the penalties from getting any larger, and also show you are rectifying the situation quickly. Thirdly, I would send a letter first to the original accountant, by recorded post, detailing the position, provide them with a copy of the demand for penalties from HMRC for 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 and state that as they led you to believe these tax returns had been filed with HMRC, you are looking to them to make good the costs arising and the fees you paid for the work you were assured had been undertaken. Also provide in this letter copies of any evidence you have of their invoices detailing the work undertaken for those returns. Ask them to respond to you within 5 working days, or you will take further action. Keep copies of your correspondence to them. In the meantime try and establish whether this original accountant works within a partnership, and whether they are affiliated with an accounting body, as if you do not get a reply within the 5 working If you get no respond with 5 working days, then if there is a head partner to the accountants, write to them (recorded post) with copies again of the paperwork (and a copy of the letter you sent to the original accountant) Again give them 5 days to respond. If there is no reply with 5 days - or this is not a partnership/limited company with the head accountant, then write to the accountancy body this accountant is affiliated with. Ask them to investigate and advise within 5 working days
If there is no head accountant and no affiliated accountancy body, then you need to take advise from a solicitor that specialises in clams against unacceptable work (or you can file yourself but there is a limit on the amount you can pursue - which I believe sits at £10,000
Let me know if you have any follow up questions on the information I have provided. Thanks Sam