We hear you on your concerns for custom duties and VAT. Let us clarify. The product classification we use does not bear duties in most countries of the world (0%). This means that it is very, very unlikely that you will have to pay custom duties.
Concerning VAT, it is important to note that projects showcased on Kickstarter are priced without it. This is mostly because there is no easy way to add taxes on Kickstarter. (They are technically pledges, not sales). Also, the way taxes are treated are not the same everywhere. In Europe, VAT is normally included in the price the consumer pays. In the US, VAT is usually added after the advertised price. But as the saying goes, you cannot escape neither death nor taxes.
From our experience with SmartHalo 1, most backers reported not having to pay anything. Some said they had to pay as much as 20$. We cannot control this but we will do our best to minimize it – within legal bounds.
We are well aware that marking the package as a gift or lowering the value of the product are ways to circumvent VAT. But these schemes are both unethical and illegal. We will not risk the reputation of the company for this.
Some backers have asked us to use a European hub for sending the packages. This would mean that the company would pay all the VAT for everybody. As a small company, this is not something we can realistically do. Keep in mind that even after paying for VAT, you still get a better deal on KS than waiting for the product to come out at retail price.