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Big tip: Ohio waitress gets feds’ check for $434K

    Waitress Ginny Hopkins sits at a table outside Johnny's Downtown restaurant in Cleveland where she works, Saturday, June 2, 2012. Hopkins recently received a federal tax refund check for nearly $435,000, which she returned to the local IRS office. She is still awaiting her more modest refund from 2011. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

CINCINNATI >> If only it was a tip.

Veteran Cleveland waitress Ginny Hopkins grabbed her mail on her way to work and found a federal tax refund check for nearly $435,000. She “laughed out loud,” then took the check with her to Johnny’s Downtown Restaurant to show around.

She enjoyed the speculation for a couple days about what she could do with the apparent windfall. Her granddaughters were thinking tickets to see the popular boy band One Direction. She had other ideas.

“Grandma hasn’t had a vacation in 28 years,” she said. “I would have gone to Hawaii.”

It was all in fun. On Thursday, she said, she instead went to the Internal Revenue Service office in Cleveland with the check.

“I’m here to give you a half million dollars,” she recounted telling employees. She said she had to show them a photo ID.

“Like anybody would walk in and just give them a big check,” she said. She said the IRS employees politely told her the mistake would be investigated internally. A message was left Saturday at the IRS office.

A waitress for 40 years, she wouldn’t say how much she earned last year, but laughed and replied: “Not enough to warrant a refund like that.”

She said she had originally filed her return in January with her son’s help, but an electronic filing glitch caused information on her return to get deleted. She filed an amended return in April, claiming a $754 refund.

She still hasn’t gotten that. She said the IRS folks gave her information for checking on the status of her refund.

She said next year, she’ll file her return requesting direct deposit of her refund.

Hopkins, who spoke by telephone Saturday before heading to her job for her sixth day of work in the week, said she wasn’t sure what she would do if another $434,712 suddenly showed up in her bank account next year.

“I’d have to start balancing my checkbook a lot better, I can tell you that,” she said.

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