Can it really be possible that I didn't pay Class 2 all those years yet filed self-assessment forms every year? Is there anything at all I can do now or is it too late? Many, many thanks for any insight you can give me.
Yes all too easy.
There is a substantial pool of people in a similar situation to you, it was quite hard for accounatnts back in the day as class2ni was billed directly to individuals so often accountants would not automatically been alerted to disrepancies as they arose or if they were present when clients where signed up.
Was this always accountants fault - no - plenty of clients came to us having registered themsleves using the wrong forms , also hmrc have been known simply to stop the class2ni record for uknown reasons that they have not been able to adequatley explain. sometimes what should have been one of low income exceptions were carried on longer than shpuld have been the case.
Presuming you have faithfully completed self assesment returns each year confirming you were sole trade and had earnings above the threshold you could write a letter of complaint to hmrc advising you dutifully completed your obligations each year and that it therefore should have been obvious to them that you were a sole trader and that they should have biled you the stamp and you would have paid. Perhaps copy in your MP if anyone can sort something like this it might be your MP. I wouldn't hold out much hope that you would have any success.
They cannot deny though that they knew this mess existed so In your letter you should advise hmrc knew fine well for many years the class2ni system did not link up as it should have done and they chose to take no action whatsoever to sort the IT as they should have done - or at least in timely fashion warn sole traders that they were responsibble for taking additional measures to check on top of the normal tell hmrc every single year you are a sole trader. With no fuss a warning could easily have been sent out each year with the paper returns that were issued back in the day.
Note the one slight thing going against you here is it looks like your record was rectified in 2003 which suggests the issue may have been highlighted to you back then in which case that was really the time to address - thats speculation though - its entirely possible your accounatnt could have sorted behind the scenesas the time without flagging up the nightmare that existed.
This should be warning to everyone who has ever been a sole trader and is unsure about their state pension that they should log into their personal tax account or setup a personal tax account and login - and view their pension history - every year is there to view and there is a nice summary shoing how many more years stamp you need.