I was sure that was the case. Unfortunate for us as there is a vast selection of items out there that take so long before they are available in the UK.The answer is, yes they do both, some buy here and also pay the taxes, unfortunately for the UK peoples, there isn't much you guys can buy without being hit with the import taxes, we here in Australia are super lucky on that regard, we only get taxed for anything over AU$1,000 I can't guarantee that this will last forever as governments are always looking for ways to increase their revenue but for now, we get spoiled...!
Richard, although I very rarely buy anything anymore, either here or in US, when I did it was hit or miss as to whether I'd get taxed when it arrived. I reckon about 60% of all my orders got taxed.
Professionally packaged stuff with the proper printed labels etc tended to attract the taxman most often.
Like you said, the variety in the UK is limited and takes a while before being available here. But I tend to think it can still be cheaper buying from the US or OZ even if you pay the taxman and other fees. You will only pay a max of 20% ( VAT ) plus the shipper handling fees.....about £8 for the Post Office. But if you compare those final costs with places like Axminster's or Turners Retreat ( CSUK ) then those import prices aren't too bad.
If you buy something from a regular member here ( not a business ) and the parcel and label is hand written etc, then I reckon you are much less likely to get snagged. There is a starting value figure before tax is due too. it used to be £28 ( I think ). So if someone just sent you a couple of kits or blanks and declare less than that, then you 'shouldn't' get taxed.
What sometimes really upset me was sometimes the actual postal cost of the sender was added to the contents value by the taxman!!!
Another thing that can catch you is International pen swaps. ( PITHs ) I have had to pay big fees because the sender placed a very high value on their pen.
I would suggest the independent traders, rather than any of the big companies, they can hand write your address and keep the value on the decleration below the 29 pounds sterling VAT threshold.Just incase of deciding to purchase across the pond. Any suggestion on all round suppliers?