‘HE’S NOT ON YOUR SIDE” declares the Labour Party in a campaign graphic featuring a grinning Rishi Sunak at a black-tie event.

“Only 4% of people pay inheritance tax. But Rishi Sunak will save himself nearly £300 million.”

That second sentence is highlighted in yellow, emphasising that the rumoured plans to slash and ultimately scrap inheritance tax will benefit not only the rich in general, but Rishi in particular.

It makes sense that the official opposition are choosing to highlight exactly how self-serving this policy move would be. The alternative is to focus on that first sentence, and emphasise to the majority of voters that they need not lose a single wink of sleep worrying about inheritance tax because their heirs will not be required to pay it.

To focus more on telling voters they won’t feel the pain of this tax is to burst the bubbles of those who cling to the fanciful notion that if they work hard enough, they will be among the 4% who will earn millions of pounds.

Or the slightly less fanciful notion that if they bought a property at the right time, its value will subsequently increase so dramatically that it will exceed the inheritance tax threshold and they won’t be able to simply transfer ownership of it to their offspring.

It doesn’t help that there is widespread confusion about what the threshold actually is, or who is currently affected by inheritance tax.

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This is understandable, given the basic threshold is £325,000 and the average UK house price as of July was £290,000. But if an estate is left to a spouse or civil partner no inheritance tax is due, and if a home is left to children or grandchildren the threshold rises to £500,000. Unused allowances can also be passed to a spouse or civil partner, meaning a couple can ultimately pass on property worth up to £1 million.

Confused? It doesn’t help that whenever this policy debate arises, overblown and emotive language is always used to discuss it (“punitive and unfair” being the latest description, from Defence Secretary Grant Shapps).

A YouGov poll for The Times found that a whopping 31% of people think their assets are such that their heirs will be liable to pay inheritance tax, and 15% expected to receive a big enough inheritance that the tax would be due. Only 5% of respondents said the threshold was £1m – which is understandable given the conditions and caveats detailed above.

Tellingly, a senior government source quoted by The Sunday Times said: “It’s the most hated tax at every income. A lot of people don’t know that they won’t pay it.” One way to reduce public hatred of the tax – while retaining the revenue – would therefore be to raise awareness of how high the thresholds actually are.

However, The Times notes other polls have suggested that attitudes towards inheritance tax are not directly correlated with perception of liability for one’s heirs to pay it.

In other words, plenty of those who know they will never be part of that 4% nonetheless believe inheritance tax is unfair, and that those 4% should be allowed to pass on their hard-earned estates to whomever they wish, with no further taxes due.

There are two fundamental misunderstandings here. One, that the estates of that 4% are hard-earned (or indeed “earned” at all) and two, that they have already been taxed appropriately. The typical working voter in the UK receives a payslip each month showing how much has been deducted as they “pay as they earn”, and it’s easy to see why they might wince at the very idea of a further contribution to the tax man further down the line.

They hear discussion of “death duties” and, perhaps admirably, conclude that if they would feel aggrieved to pay such a thing then fairness dictates that they should feel aggrieved on behalf of the rich too, who might not be paid via the PAYE system but are surely still paying their way. Surely?

In truth there is no such thing as “death duty”, no double taxation, as the person who earned or accumulated the wealth cannot pay any duty or tax, on account of being dead. We can all at least look forward to one day being relieved of that obligation (and indeed all other obligations).

In this respect, Labour’s campaign graphic isn’t quite correct, surely, in that it implies Sunak himself, rather than his descendants, stands to save £300m.

Perhaps Labour assessed that the less accurate but more outrageous claim would be a more effective campaign line. Perhaps those who are instinctively – if irrationally – against inheritance tax would be unmoved by the argument that the Prime Minister’s daughters should not benefit from their father’s policies.

Just days ago Sunak tried to spin his climate U-turns as a helping hand for the average man or woman struggling to pay the bills – presumably he meant the food and power bills, not tax bills payable on unearned windfalls.

The National: Sunak spoke to press on Monday morning

But are Labour prepared to hammer him in the event that he pushes ahead with cutting inheritance tax, and argue for the redistribution of wealth?

Or, when faced with evidence that the public hate inheritance tax, and favour protecting the wealthy, will they bottle it?