In 1985, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) promised to make substantial illegal payments to Aldrich Ames (plaintiff), a United States citizen and federal employee. In return, Ames would spy on the United States and hand over secret government documents to the USSR. The payments were to be made covertly and placed in secret locations where Ames could retrieve them illegally. The USSR made the promised illegal payments to Ames between 1989 and 1992. Ames did not report or pay federal income tax on the payments. In 1994, the United States government imprisoned Ames for spying and tax fraud. The commissioner of internal revenue (commissioner) (defendant) determined deficiencies in Ames’s taxes for 1989 through 1992. Ames, who routinely reported his legal income on the cash method of accounting, claimed that he constructively received the illegal payments when they were promised to him in 1985. Ames petitioned the tax court for a redetermination, arguing that the payments should be attributed to his taxable 1985 income, not his taxable 1989-1992 income.