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Its often better value to buy EU, unless you order a lot in one go as the fee is proportionally less then.
The VAT threshold is £15 not $15 so it's a bit better, but if your order value is high enough - above £135 - there will also be Import Duty to pay as well. Small amounts of Duty are waived but if you are charged, they'll also add VAT to the Duty, so they're taxing you on the tax :)
I've had things sent from Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia and the same happens with no ryhme or reason.
I think the smaller the item is, the less chance of it looking valuable.
They don't check all packages and many where VAT is due will sneak through. This is more likely to happen with smaller parcels, particularly those that went through the export country's automated sorting machines and that arrives with regular letter post.
There's one other thing that's worth noting. If you're importing as a trader and the sender doesn't complete the customs forms accurately, you - as the importer - can end up paying a penalty.
@khmellymel - in many cases you can claim relief from VAT and Import Duty on personal belongings when moving to the UK. It's not something I dealt with personally when I worked at HMRC but I'm reasonably sure you need to arrange it via the shipping company (form C3 rings a bell but I'm not certain). There may be a way to claim a refund but I'm not sure.
It should be noted that in the country of destination, the buyer would be the one held responsible for incorrect customs declarations made by the seller, so asking them to make a dodgy declaration would be a bit silly.
I've been buying on BrickLink for several years now and sellers were making that statement when I started. I don't think there's been a recent clampdown, although it is possible that more people are asking now given the shifts in exchange rates.
I've also been buying from overseas almost from the get-go, and--for what it's worth--had good success for the most part, provided I check the sellers' postage rates and restrictions before filling my cart. Many places have size restrictions on their lower-priced shipping rates--for example, Canadians can't fit a 2x2x3 slope (such as a female minifigure's skirt) in a letter packet. Also, some sellers require insurance for all overseas orders, no matter how small; that can raise the postage costs in a hurry. And the USA's minimum cost for sending anything other than a sticker sheet (or perhaps a plate) is $6.95, which is outrageous!
For very light orders, I've found the Netherlands the cheapest, because they offer the most detailed breakdown by weight; for larger ones, I've found Germany, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Russia all offer reasonable rates. (Of course, I'm looking at the transatlantic rates; your mileage may vary!) For orders weighing over 500 g, it's best to stick to one's own country.
Ordering a small amount of Lego can be just as cost effective from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, etc as it is from a seller in the UK. The cost effectiveness might disappear as the value of your order increases, but not always.
This is where BrickOwl's Wish List feature work really well - it will show you the cheapest place to get what you want, and all it won't tell you is whether you'll need to pay import charges or not. To avoid those keep your orders small (lower than £15) or keep within the EU. Bricklink's Wish List feature might help you narrow it down to a few stores but you still then have the chore of working out the additional payment and shipping charges. The sooner BL 2.0 comes out the better!