A company in the Murray Group of companies which wished to benefit one of its employees (generally, a footballer or executive) made a cash payment (often corresponding to a discretionary “bonus”) respecting the employee to a trust which had been set up by one of the Murray companies (the “Principal Trust”). The paying company recommended that the trustees of the Principal Trust resettle the sum in question (in their discretion) on to a sub-trust and would ask that the income and capital of the sub-trust be applied in accordance with the wishes of the employee. The beneficiaries of the sub-trust (generally, family members) were chosen by the employee. In practice, the trustees of the sub-trusts invariably gave effect to the wishes of the employee. The employee would be appointed protector of the sub-trust (i.e., with a power of appointment, and the right to change trustees), and the trustee of the sub-trust would then lend the employee the money that had been advanced to the sub-trust at LIBOR +1.5% and with a 10–year term subject to extension.
Before finding that the payments made by the companies to the Principal Trust in respect of the employees were emoluments or earnings that were subject to the obligation to deduct tax under the PAYE system, Lord Drummond Young stated (at para. 56):
[I]f income is derived from an employee’s services qua employee, it is an emolument or earnings, and is thus assessable to income tax, even if the employee requests or agrees that it be redirected to a third party….[I]t is irrelevant that the redirection is through the medium of trust arrangements. It is equally irrelevant that the trustees who receive the payment, at whatever remove, exercise a genuine discretion as to what happens to the funds. The funds are ultimately derived as consideration for the employee’s services, and on that basis they are properly to be considered emoluments or earnings.